This month’s crop of incoming movies and TV series are almost good enough to forgive the massive swath that the streaming service cut through their library of content to get there. Between shows like Code Geass, Arrow and The Flash, movies like he Matrix, Scream and Zombieland, plus the regional debuts of Snowpiercer and The Wandering Earth, there are just so many great options of subscribers to choose from in May.
Code Geass — If there’s one thing that you see on Netflix from this new crop of content, make it Code Geass. It is a complex, densely layered show that mixes deep characterization, thoughtful worldbuilding and epic mech fights with deep insights into the day-to-day tragedies of the human condition. Easily my favorite anime — which is saying something, given its intense competition — this basically combines the best of series like Gundam Wing and X-Men with the socio-political context of World War II. And with the franchise set to radically expand in the near future, there’s never been a better time to get into it.
Gremlins — Growing up, my dad hated any movie that questioned the existence of Santa Claus. Movies like The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street and even A Christmas Story were all met with slant-eyed suspicion for this exact reason, but the biggest offender by far was Gremlins. What caused him to squirm this time, though, wasn’t the violence nor the gore nor the grotesque transformations of the family pets into murderous little monsters. Rather, it was the monolog about why this one character doesn’t like Christmas. You see, her father went missing on Christmas Eve and remained in the wind for weeks as the family desperately tried to figure out where he had gone. One night, when trying to light their fireplace, they discover a rancid smell coming from the chimney. But when they break through, expecting a dead car or bird, they find her missing father: arms loaded with presents, having snapped his neck trying to come down the chimney on Christmas Eve. And that’s how she discovered that Santa wasn’t real… in the PG-rated, Spielberg produced Christmas movie.
The Matrix — To some degree, The Matrix has the same kinds of problems with Ghost in the Shell (1995) and Clerks do: everything that made the movie unique in the first place has long since been cannibalized by the Hollywood machine and been put to use in far worse, far less interesting types of stories. It’s become its own sort of clichÃ© and its hard to simply engage with the movie on its own terms anymore. And yet, we’re still watching The Matrix. Two terrible sequels, one in-development reboot and a couple decades later and The Matrix is still mandatory viewing for action and sci-fi junkies. It, in fact, has simply become more interesting as the years have gone on and the internal lives of his trademark siblings have come to the fore.
Scream — While I won’t deny that New Nightmare (1994) is the vastly superior version of this exact kind 90’s-centric meta-horror and that Scream has aged comparatively poorly in no small part thanks to the omnipresent retcons made by every one of its subsequent sequels that somehow make the original that much less interesting each and every time its revisited, the first film is nevertheless a stalwart film that endures despite the latter-day meddling of its follow-ups. Directed by the esteemed Wes Craven, working off of a razor-sharp script and a solid cast of actors, the film effectively (if winkingly) deconstructs many of the slasher tropes that had come to dominate the preceding decades of horror films. Fun, funny and, at times, fiendishly clever, do yourself a favor by simply skipping out on every other movie that pretends to follow in its footsteps. None of them could possibly fill its prodigious shoes.
Snowpiercer — I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: not enough people have seen Snowpiercer. It’s basically The Hunger Games without all of the love triangles, set in the claustrophobic cars of a moving train and starring Captain America instead of Mystique. It’s understandable why this movie is as obscure as it is: Weinstein basically killed the movie’s distribution over a grudge with the director. In fact, its Netflix debut marks its debut in Britain as well. And this movie is just too spectacular for people not to check it out.