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.
World War Z
Save for stockpiling ammunition and canned food, we really did plan for the worst ahead of World War Z’s delayed big screen release, coming on the back of an extensive four month reshoot. Our scepticism couldn’t have been more misplaced: it was a masterful example of big budget filmmaking, putting an intelligent spin on the zombie genre with some first-rate action as Brad Pitt’s swoon-worthy UN scientist raced across the globe to halt a flesh-eating epidemic. With news of Pitt returning for the sequel, if you haven't already watched it then do so now.
Paddy Considine. Gary Oldman. Two excellent British actors always capable of raising the production value of indie films immeasurably. Like in this Spanish-set, Straw Dogs-esque small budget thriller. They play a pair of old friends spending the summer together in the mountainous depths of Northern Spain, where they go hunting and find something grisly (not a bear), which soon leads to a frantic, bloody chain of events which puts them in the sights of a few unpleased locals.
Forget the MTV spin-off series (there are far too many adverts for one), this decidedly dark and unsettling documentary kicked it all off, delving into the murkier side of Facebook through the eyes of a naïve New Yorker named Nev. Filmed by his pals as he attempts to track down a girl on the social network to see if she’s who she says she is, Nev’s quest has all the hallmarks of a horror film - handy-cam footage, moonlit dusty tracks, abandoned farmhouses – and arguably bigger shocks. By the end of it you may have defriended everyone not in your family.
Who remembers this glorious sci-fi horror, shining like a beacon of sci-fi splattered adult violence on the top shelf of many childhood film video shops? The year is 2078 and Peter Weller (yes, a naked Robocop) stars as a former elite soldier surviving on a planet once prosperous but now toxic and festooned with artificially intelligent self-replicating machines which emit screaming noises when they attack. A bit like Katie Price, only not quite as scary. Well worth a bank holiday watch.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Racism. Abortion. Guns. Cancer. Alcoholism. Not subjects covered in a Louis Theroux series but the themes of the very first five episodes of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, setting a bar for controversy so high that it should never really have topped it. Well, unfortunately for those with taste, it has. Ten seasons on and the hijinks of the misfits working in a dive Philly bar just get better and better. The 10th season is now ready to watch on Netflix.
From the makers of Cocaine Cowboys comes another documentary shedding light on a sinister Miami underbelly. Only this isn’t nearly as glamorous nor as retrospective as that '70s drug era doc – this flings us right into today’s murky world of bare-knuckled backyard fights, spawned out of despair, debt and misplaced bravado across a region already blighted by poverty and crime. No, doctors, no ambulances and no hope, it’s much more than a voyeuristic look at men beating each other to a bloody pulp in the ghetto, it’s an alarming and hidden snapshot down the cracks of Obama’s America.
Be honest, you've already got this muddled up with Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot haven’t you? Well don’t - part news satire, part whodunit, this unmistakeably ‘90s cult comedy narrowly avoids falling into naff territory thanks, in large, to a superb turn from Kathleen Turner, playing the archetypal suburban mother who may or may not be a rampant psychopath offing townsfolk left right and centre. Moreover, laying the blueprint for the likes of Dexter and similar ilk of recent years, this really was a landmark black comedy.
The Parole Officer
Think of great heist films and chances are you’re not picturing one set in Manchester - probably something to do with FBI agents, buzzing choppers and megaphones held by grizzled detectives who enjoy the sound of their own voice being more associated with the pastures of New York than North West England – but don’t write off this British gem. In his first sizeable big screen turn, Steve Coogan plays as the unwitting parole officer framed for murder and forced to take hostages when the only evidence that can get him off the hook is a videotape locked inside a bank vault. Tongue firmly in cheek, the laughs come thick and fast.
Only The Lonely
Ah John Candy. Eternally likeable, mischievous, frequently a kind-hearted schlub in John Hughes films, John Candy. In fact you might have become so accustomed to watching re-runs of the classics - Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you get the gist - that you haven’t even heard of this one. Directed by Christopher Columbus, produced by Hughes, set in Chicago and co-starring Ally Sheedy (obviously), Candy plays a cop whose day job and potential romance is thwarted at every turn by an overbearing Irish Catholic mother.
If you thought other mountain-based disaster films had left their mark on you, this documentary, focusing on the 2008 accident that killed eleven climbers on K2, will keep you awake for weeks. Taking its name from the fact many of the climbers reached the top before tragedy befell them, it combines dramatized shots with real footage (including that from mountaineer Frederick Strang who was present on the trip, only surviving because he failed to reach the summit) while attempting to wade through differing testimony and work out exactly what happened.
Hobo With A Shotgun
Rutger Hauer is…a hobo with a shotgun. Don’t worry, things aren’t that bad for the Blade Runner star, we’re just referring to the titular character he portrays in this grindhouse-style romp, in which a small city is plunged into chaos by a vicious crime lord known as The Drake (no, not that Drake). Unsurprisingly, our vagrant vigilante is all that stands between good and evil. The perfect weekend viewing.
There was a time when the pinnacle of cookery television involved a sweaty chef being screamed at by Gordon Ramsay. Thankfully, those dark days are long gone and now cooking on TV is more akin to an arts programme. Chef’s Table treats food as high art and the chefs behind it as old masters. This brilliant new documentary series goes inside the lives and kitchens of six of the world's best chefs, including Ben Shewry, Dan Barber and Massimo Bottura. It’s intelligent, beautifully shot and contains absolutely no added Gordon Ramsay. Thank The F Word for that.
Andy Whitfield, the star of this underrated series, tragically died of cancer in 2011 after one season and the show was never quite the same again without his charismatic presence. Though that shouldn't overshadow a show that gets better season after season. What's more, John Hannah is the real star turn and provides some essential and compelling grounding as the ruthless gladiator trainer Batiatus. It’s like Game of Thrones but with even less clothes.
I Am Ali
There have been a lot of films about Muhammad Ali and this one is, if not ground breaking, a worthy addition to the canon. With unprecedented access to Ali’s "audio journals" and testimonials from those closest to him, the documentary reveals that the crucial time in the development of his legend was actually the period when he was banned from boxing. Ali spent his wilderness years from 1967 to 1971 on the lecture tours, media appearances and photo shoots, that would ultimately solidify his legendary personality into the public consciousness. No bees or butterflies though.
24 year old filmmaker/journalist Charlie Lyne guides you, in this dazzling visual essay, through the beloved, and not so beloved, high school films of your childhood. The prodigiously talented Lyne has assembled clips from over 200 films and stitched them together into a beautiful narrative – voiced by Fairuza Balk from satirical teen movie The Craft – that explores the awkwardness, sexual awakening, proms and everything else we loved about those strange and wonderful teen films.
One of the first documentaries to deal with the complex problem of addiction to the internet, Web Junkies takes a fascinating and extraordinary look at the Chinese government’s attempt to deal with this often overlooked condition through purpose built rehabilitation clinics. The film makers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia are given unprecedented access to one such clinic and their film is an interesting, if chilling, look at a problem that is only likely to become more widespread.
A documentary series about three Australian “mates” who leave their jobs Down Under to drive around America exploring the numerous weird and wonderful subcultures the US has to offer. Their gonzo-esque style lends itself well to the adventurous theme of the programme and the scrapes they get into provide an entertaining and often poignant look at a rarely seen side of American life. We wouldn't give a XXXX about anything else this weekend.