Netflix has always had a give-and-take relationship with its subscribers. The mercurial nature of its programming lineup means that how worthwhile it is to stay signed in to the service changes on a monthly basis.
It’s inevitable that old favorites rotate out of the roster of streamable shows as licenses expire and subscribers, taken as a whole, have had their fill them. And though they are replaced with new movies and shows just as quickly, it may take spurned subscribers some time to sift through the newcomers for hidden gems or new favorites.
May seems to have hit Netflix especially hard. Not only did we lose huge amount of fan-favorite programming, but their immediate replacements don’t quite measure up to what has already left us. There’s still plenty to busy ourselves with among the incoming shows, though, as long as you’re willing to give it a shot.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil — One of the many reasons why I love my brother is his taste in bizarre movies. Every time we get together these days, we exchange notes on what uncommon finds we’ve come across since our last get-together. From foreign goodies to experimental shorts to squarely mainstream movies that we never thought would have been worth investing hours of our time into, we always walk away with a sizable list of things to check out when we get home.
Anvil!, a documentary about a failed 80’s metal band whose members have long since returned to their depressing day jobs, is one of my brother’s more memorable suggestions. Despite playing alongside bands like Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi, they never broke out as a mainstream hit. After aging into their fifties with nothing to show for it, the band decides to take one final stab at being rock stars: forced to confront their personal insecurities and their decades old in-fighting while trying to make it on a European music tour.
Doctor Strange — It almost goes without saying at this point that the Marvel movies are all great. When even the worst among them is a solidly middle-rank action movie, it’s a safe bet that whatever they put into theaters is going to be worth your time. And with all of its peculiarities and mystical quirks, Doctor Strange is one of the most singularly unique films in the superhero franchise to date.
After being crippled in a car accident, hot-shot surgeon Stephen Strange is desperate for a path back to his old life: to fame, fortune and the fast lane. But when Western medicine fails to heal him, his salvation lies in the mystics of the far East. After taking refuge with an ancient order of sorcerers, he finds not just a means to heal his injuries, but a path to bettering all of mankind.
Forrest Gump — Every great once in a while, Hollywood will produce the perfect movie. By “perfect” I don’t mean something inherently faultless, but something that everybody can like, if not outright love: the seamless distillation of engaging narrative, relatable characters and visionary filmmakers. The Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca and yes, even Forrest Gump rank among these “perfect” movies.
Although Forrest Gump has come under fire in recent years for its exploitative protagonist and cultural appropriation, it has persisted as a favorite movie of several generations for a good reason. It’s sacrosanct cast includes Tom Hanks in one of two consecutive Best Actor winning roles, Gary Sinise at the top of his game and Haley Joel Osment long before his uncomfortable slide out of the spotlight. The story touches on the cultural milestones of an entire generation with irreverent humor and heartfelt grace. And you would scarce be able to find a more instantly quotable script in all of American cinema.
Inglourious Basterds — I’ve always had a rocky relationship with Tarantino movies. No matter how much I love them on repeated viewings, I can never get into them the first time around. This was the case with the classic Pulp Fiction, the delightfully shlocky Death Proof and even Inglourious Basterds, the movie that has fast become a favorite go-to of mine.
A lot of that, I think, comes down to the man himself. Tarantino is probably the best screenwriter working in Hollywood today, but his work as a director — and, implicitly, an editor — has never quite measured up to his primary talent. So while his dialog is sterling from title card to end credits, his scenes tend to drag and meander in ways that a more gifted director simply wouldn’t allow to happen. For better or for worse, it makes his films feel instantly his own: a unique cross-section of perfect writing and the mad genius not let any of it go to waste. And when push comes to shove, you will never find a more Tarantino-esque movie than this.
Sherlock, Season 4 — I never quite know how to feel about this series. By any conventional measure, its seasons are infuriatingly short, often consisting of only a couple episodes between lengthy hiatuses. At the same time, however, each episode is virtually an entire movie, with intricate mysteries peppered by wide character arcs. Like Mystery Science Theater 3000, it’s often too much movie for a TV series, but too serialized for movie.
Despite its uniquely problematic format, it is unquestionably the single best version of the franchise to ever make it to screen. Holmes is a deceptively difficult nut to crack; an inch too far into “oddball genius” and you get the Robert Downey Jr. films, but a touch too “stiff-lipped Brit” and you wind up with the Basil Rathbone mysteries. While it might not easily fit into either a movies or tv series, this BBC production nails the character — not to mention the cases — better than any other cinematic attempt.
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