Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Streaming on Netflix and Hulu | imdb | trailer

This is Sergio Leone’s flawed, but still amazing, final film. Once Upon a Time in America is a wide-ranging epic about a prohibition-era Jewish gangster in New York City. I will spare you all the gory details about what went wrong in the cutting and release (you can read all about it over here). I saw this in whatever the hell version was on DVD around 2005 and loved it. Yes, this film is slow. However it tops Goodfellas in the level of violence and scope. To keep it simple, if you are a fan gangster movies and TV series, you need to see this. The amazing cast is reason enough. Just go in knowing it’s a long slow ride with some seriously bloody sections. Maybe even break it up into two or more viewings for maximum enjoyment (that’s my plan for a re-watch soon).

The domestic Blu-ray is currently Out of Print.

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Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a documentary about $80 million in forged abstract expressionist art that was sold through a major NY art dealer. If you have little to no interest in art, then this will bore the hell out of you. I found it to be very well made, and engaging throughout. It is mostly one-on-one interviews, peppered with some high quality documentary photos and appropriate video / film footage. Oh yeah and there’s that one element that you’ll see in 99% of contemporary documentaries… the animation. There seems to be a rule that there MUST be at least one section featuring animation in every doc. It’s as if there’s a big scary enforcer that shows up in the editing process and says “I ain’t seen no cartoons in dis here picture yet” while showing the director his bloodstained baseball bat. I get why documentary makers feel it’s necessary, but it’s become a cliche. If you just have to do it, please do something really interesting like the animation in Gimmie Danger. Sorry, I had to get that out. Where was I? Ok, here’s why Made You Look is worth your time: you get to learn about rich and powerful people becoming victims of their own stupidity and greed. Enjoy the schadenfreude my friends.

Not Available on Blu-ray.

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It Follows (2014)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Have you seen the one about the sexually transmitted poltergeist? Most horror devotees were all over It Follows when it first came out. Deservedly so, as it’s a damn good film. I only give it bad marks for the John Carpenter rip off soundtrack. The filmmakers either should have hired the man himself, or tweaked the music just enough to sound original. Really it’s a minor complaint. If you have missed this one up to now, watch it before Netflix swaps it out for some more of the garbage horror they tend to favor.

Available on Blu-ray from Radius.

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The Siege of Jadotville (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a solid, history-based war movie. I had never heard of this battle, so this was all news to me. The film features good performances, a fast-pace, and it gets pretty graphic here and there too. This is the first time I realized that Jamie Dornan was a skilled actor. I despised anything to do with Fifty Shades of Grey, but he is truly talented in spite of being involved in a garbage franchise. I recommend checking out Anthopoid and My Dinner With Herve as well. The Siege of Jadotville is not going to move you like say, The Thin Red Line, but if you want some entertaining battle action, it’s a good pick.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Forgotten Battle (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

The first Dutch Netflix feature is a very good, fact-based, WW2 drama. It is beautifully shot, and a lot of care was taken on the sound design. This has been compared to Dunkirk, but I honestly enjoyed The Forgotten Battle more. Here we are not spared from the ugly details of war. The drama felt more real to me as well.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Mars at Sunrise (2014)

Streaming on Netflix (also available for free on YouTube) | imdb | trailer

This is a challenging, darkly surrealistic, feature based on the experiences of Palestinian artist Hani Zurob. Critics did not really care for it, but I thought it was quite good. Mars at Sunrise is not unlike a full-length video art piece. It’s jarring and confusing, but beautiful. I will admit that I have an unusually high tolerance for more free-form, artistic expression that doesn’t concern itself with narrative. This film is only 75 minutes long, so just check it out if I haven’t scared you off already.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Chappie (2015)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I missed this movie when it first came out. I figure a few of you did too. It’s not as good as Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, but I found this very entertaining. Thankfully Chappie has that same level of high quality CG. Yes, it is a bit cheesy at times. Let that slide and you get lots of R rated action to make up for it. I have to admit that Ninja and Yo-Landi are good in this too. Shockingly good.

BONUS: Check out Blomkamp’s Oats Studio videos on YouTube. There are a lot of great short films available for free.

Available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures.

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Mosul (Drama – 2019)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent action drama, based on the true story of the Iraqi SWAT team (check out the documentary of the same name / subject). It’s gritty and violent for sure, but the characters and performances make Mosul rise above a cheesy action flick. Netflix has delivered a fast paced movie of very high quality. I wish they’d try harder to repeat that.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Small Town Crime (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a solid crime thriller with some good, at times extremely graphic, bursts of action. The cinematography looks great as well. Saturated colors and deep shadows are featured. It’s nice to see Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Walking the Edge, Alligator, etc) given lots of screen time. Small Town Crime is an enjoyable dark film, with a lot packed into 90 minutes.

Available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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Night in Paradise (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a very good South Korean dramatic crime thriller. The cinematography is beautiful, and the performances are all strong. There are a few good shootout scenes too. They are only hampered by unrealistic gun action, which is a very common problem in movies. If you’ve never fired a gun, you won’t notice. The barely-kicking guns were easy for me to ignore because this really is an enjoyable, dark movie. The only other blemish is that the film on the slow side. However the climax is well worth the wait. I wish Netflix would invest in more movies like this. That streaming service has a real crap hoarding problem.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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