A feature I started 3 weeks ago… recapping… Netflix now has about twice as many streaming subscribers than DVD subscribers, according to a company financial statement during the first half of this year, it means more of you continue to sign up for Netflix streaming accounts, specifically.
And a common complaint I hear is that, available streaming titles aren't as robust of DVD titles – especially when it comes to recent releases.
But what I can do is alert you to films (old and new) that are streaming on Netflix, that you may not already realize are available in that format, and may be interested in checking out.
I missed last week's 5. I'll make up for it… eventually.
But without further ado, here are this week's 5; I tried to mix it up a bit, tossing in a few *fun* titles, since past picks have leaned more towards to serious:
1. Exam (2009) – Kudos to any filmmaker who can produce a feature-length film that takes place in real-time, entirely in one room, and have it actually be entertaining and riveting enough to keep the audience watching. The British film Exam is one film that I think lands on the side of success when it comes to films of that ilk. It's a psycho-thriller, written and directed by Stuart Hazeldine, and co-starring a couple of Black British actors we've covered on this site, in Colin Salmon and Chukwudi Iwuji.
Salmon should be familiar to those of you here in the States – he's played bit parts in several Hollywood-made movies, like Resident Evil, AVP, The Punisher, and he was a regular in all 3 James Bond movies that starred Pierce Brosnan in the title role. He was also featured in the underrated The Bank Job in 2008.
The film brings together 8 disparate people – candidates for an unspecified high-powered job – who are placed in room to take an exam, with the winner of the test/exam, getting the job. Of course, all it's not as simple as that, and things get a bit hairy. But I won't reveal anymore, other than to say that the question is that there is no question. The film happens in real time, and it’s a crisply done, brisk genre film featuring some good acting.
100 Minutes, 8 Candidates, 1 Answer, No Question. Intrigued so far?
If not, maybe the below trailer will be more enticing.. Like I said, it's a fun little genre film; nothing you're going to write home about.
2. Sam Fuller's 1982 pulp flick White Dog – Literally a throat-grabbing exposé on racism. Samuel Fuller (who's white) was known for his low-budget, tabloid-style films that often featured protagonists from marginalized groups… in this case blacks. He died in 1997. The film was little-seen when it was released; considered so controversial that it was suppressed by Paramount studio executives, and was never released theatrically in the U.S.! That should tell you a little something.
In the movie, essentially an anti-racist film, Julie Sawyer (Kristy McNichol) runs over a wandering white dog with her car one night, takes the dog home and then nurses it back to health. Some days later, the mild-mannered dog saves her life by viciously attacking and killing a rapist who breaks into her home. Julie then discovers that the dog has been trained to attack black skin.
So she consults an animal trainer who urges her to have the dog exterminated. But a maverick African American dog trainer named Keys, played by the late Paul Winfield, who has tried before to break the training of such dogs but never succeeded, steps in to reprogram/re-socialize the animal.
Despite being buried by frightened studio executives, it was hailed by critics when it was released in Europe. Thankfully, in late 2008, the folks at Criterion Collection re-packaged and re-released the film on DVD for new audiences to experience for themselves. And it's also streaming on Netflix.
Here's a recent trailer:
3. The Films Of Noel Clarke – This isn't necessarily a recommendation from me; in other words, I'm not suggesting that you watch because it's great cinema, but rather because, the director, Noel Clarke, is a talent whose name has come up quite often on this site. BUT, many of you are not at all familiar with his work, likely because, while they've seen theatrical distribution in his homeland, the UK, none of his films (those he's been behind – written, produced, directed) has been released theatrically here in the USA. You'll find them on home video here (not even all of them), and that's about it.
A handful are streaming on Netflix, including his most recent work, Fast Girls (released this year), which he wrote, produced and co-stars in (didn't direct this time).
So, if you want to familiarize yourself with the British multihyphenate's work, here's your chance to play catchup, so that next time we write about him, you're not wondering about what he's done in the past. I can't say any of these films are particularly great, but give them a look and judge for yourselves. He's a movie-making machine in the UK (if I recall, there'll be a total of about 4 Noel Clarke movies in UK theaters this year; he's like the UK version of Tyler Perry, if only in terms of productivity). So, other than Fast Girls, also streaming on Netflix you'll find the gritty Kidulthood (2006) which he wrote and starred in, the all-girl heist thriller 188.8.131.52. (2010), which he wrote, directed and produced.
Start with those 3, watch them in release date order, and I think you'll get a feel for his overall style, and see how he's progressed over the years.
Here's a trailer for the earliest of the bunch, which really helped launch his career, Kidulthood:
4. Blood And Bone (2009) – I remember when I first decided to check this out; I went into it expecting it to be cheap and not very good. But I watched it, and afterward, realized that it's actually not bad. Maybe even a little under-rated. It's a genre film; action-packed (just look at the title) B-movie, and doesn't try to be anything more than what it is. But it's well-made. Its star, Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White, the muscle-bound, martial arts pro (and the rest of the starring cast), helps elevate the material.
Mr White kicks ass, and more ass, and more ass, and never smiles, nor blinks! He's the ultimate bad-ass, and fun to watch!
Of course, there is a story there; in short, an ex-convict named Isaiah Bone (played by White) falls into a mob-controlled street fighting ring in the back alleys of Los Angeles, in order to keep a promise to a dead friend.
It co-stars Nona Gaye (looking, sounding and acting uncannily like a younger Angela Bassett) as the supposed love interest, but not really, Brit Eamonn Walker as a sword-wielding villainous kingpin, and a cadre of other players. It's predictable and cliche-filled, but, entertaining. Like I said, it knows exactly what it is, and doesn't try to be anything more, or less. It's one setup after another, with each usually ending with a fight sequence, involving white, leading up to the inevitable final showdown that you can see coming a mile away. But, oddly enough, you still anticipate it.
This was director Ben Ramsey's 2nd feature film; he's African American, by the way; he previously directed Love And A bullet, which starred Treach from rap group Naughty By Nature. He also executive produced Dennis Dortch's A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy.
And one final not, before Steven Soderbergh put her in Haywire ast year, Gina Carano did some acting, and fighting in Blood And Bone.
Here's its trailer:
5. Focus Features' Africa First Shorts – This was the very first class of Focus Features' Africa First Shorts Program, from 2009/2010. We've lauded the program plenty here on S&A, so I hope you're already familiar; and now you can watch the first series of films that launched the program.
The 4 films that make up the freshman class include: futuristic sci-fi tale Pumzi by Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya); public transportation musical Saint Louis Blues by Dyana Gaye (Senegal); The Tunnel, a 1980s-set story centering around a 10-year-old girl’s quest, by Jenna Bass (South Africa); and The Abyss Boys, a thriller about an illegal trade in a small fishing town by Jan-Hendrik Beetge (South Africa).
Each film is anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes long on average, and all very well made; of course I have my favorites, but I won't say.
The program is now up to its 5th class, so expect more selections from it, in upcoming Netflix recommendations.
A trailer for the compilation is below: