How many times have you googled “what to watch on Netflix?” only to find that the suggested films aren’t available in the Malaysian Netflix library. Don’t worry friend, we’re gonna make life easier for you. Every week, we’ll be providing three recommendations for you to watch on Netflix. One originally produced Netflix movie/special. One film that’s not a Netflix original production. And finally, one TV series or foreign language film. That way, you’ll be sure to make full use of your Netflix, without scrolling through bajillion different movies only to end up selecting a crappy Adam Sandler movie.
Recently our recommendations have been more catered towards a more adult-oriented audience because let’s face it Oldboy isn’t exactly suitable for kids. So this week, we’ve decided to go for films and TV series that both adults and kids can enjoy. If you’ve got kids or maybe you are a kid at heart, these are some shows we definitely think you should pick up.
Chicken Run (Non-Netflix Original)
Considered one of the more prolific stop-motion animated studios, Aardman Animations over the years have produced films and TV shows that have thrilled children of all ages and even strange hipster adults. Their most notable properties include the popular children’s show Shaun the Sheep and the zany adventures of dog-man pest removal duo, Anti-Pesto in Wallace and Gromit. Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the work produced by Aardman. You can always rely on them to have considerably good time. Whether it’s the energy and hilarious antics that their characters get into or the devilishly witty writing that gives these cutesy clay folk a little edge.
If you’ve never heard of the studio or have been contact with their work, a great place to start is with their earliest full-length feature film, Chicken Run. A not so subtle reflection of Nazi internment camps, Chicken Run follows the story of a plucky do-or-die hen name Ginger and her mission to liberate her fellow chickens from a life of fear and death in the Tweedy’s farms. The hens must constantly produce eggs for the dimwitted Mr Tweedy and his vicious wife. On the night she resigns to their fate in the farm, she witnesses a flying cockerel zip through the sky before crash landing into the hens’ coops. The cock Rocky might be their last hope of finally leaving the farm and finding freedom. But they better hurry because Mrs Tweedy has nefarious plans for them…and it involves chicken pies.
Chicken Run will have you laughing, if not mildly chucking, from start to finish. First off, the character designs that go each of the animals here are just distinct and unique. From Ginger’s farmgirl look to the butch, burly and often surly Bunty to the well dressed smuggler rats, Nick and Fetcher. The dialogue in the film is signature Aardman with a lot well-timed puns, absurd miscommunication and clever banter. They even take time to sneak a few pop culture references in there that will definitely in there. My favourite being a low-key Star Trek reference by way of Mac, a bespectacled Scottish hen referencing they have a “cling-on” on their ship. Physical humour is also used to great effect here without it ever wearing out its welcome, which is a rarity when it comes to children animated films. But Aardman manages to make every gag, chicken brawl and egg cannon battle the best version they can be!
The voice cast though small, still did remarkable work in giving breath to these unique characters. Special credits go to Mel Gibson as the voice of the con-artist cock Rocky, Julia Sawalha as Ginger and Miranda Richardson and deliciously wicked Mrs Tweedy. Their sense of comedic timing and unabashed ability to throw themselves into their roles are what truly made the film. Having to try to balance the wackier aspects of the material with the grimmer ones is no small order and these thespians performed splendidly.
Chicken Run is a gorgeously animated, high-flying riot that will have you busting a gut while also seriously making you consider going vegan. Eat your heart out Toy Story 3, somebody did thinly veiled animated World War 2 allegories before you did!
A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV Series)
Adulthood can be difficult and sometimes we find ourselves dreaming of returning to a time of simple innocence when we were kids. But let’s be honest here, when we were kids the seemed a lot bigger and scarier. Schools seemed less like places of education and equipment and more like prisons made by grownups to keep us from playing. Not to mention, they were some adults that didn’t always act the way should. In fact, there was always something about that big, wide world that seemed sinister. Well, if you’re looking feel like a kid again and aren’t too fond of the sugar pop aesthetics of animated cartoons, we may have found the perfect series for you. Enter Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Based on the popular book series of the same name, the show follows the misadventures of three orphaned siblings, the Baudelaire children. After their parents died (or perhaps murdered) in a fire, the Baudelaires become the inheritors of their family fortune. The only problem is that their vain, cruel and frankly homicidal uncle, Count Olaf is determined to make off with their inheritance by any means necessary. Now, the poor Baudelaires will have to move from terrible situation to terrible situation, trying to figure out what happened to their parents while keeping their eccentric madman of an uncle at bay.
A Series of Unfortunate Events much like its source material is wonderfully comedic in the darkest ways possible and elegantly straddles the line between the childlike fears and real world horrors. The shit that these kids have to go through is just down right bonkers, especially from Olaf with his ridiculous harebrained schemes. Take for instance when he casts the oldest of the Baudelaire kids Violet in a play as the lead that ends up marrying another character. In reality, Olaf is actually trying to get Violet officially married through the ruse of playing a part. Then there was the time, the kids had were shipped off to work as forced labourers at a creepily upbeat mill where their parents are blamed for the fire that destroyed a whole town. Child marriages and slavery…boy this spells fun for the whole family. Surprisingly enough, it is. The show is a good mix of family drama, creepy adventure and grim comedy. It certainly helps that its cynically fun and deadpan dialogue is delivered by an effective cast.
The actors for the Baudelaire kids, namely Violet and Klaus are competently performed by Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes. Each having their character’s distinct personality shining through. Hats off to the every fabulous and flamboyant Neil Patrick Harris who magnificently nails the role of the disguise-switching, glory seeking, fortune stealing Count Olaf. He is the black beating heart of the show. It’s also nice to Patrick Warburton as the narrator Lemony Snicket. Finally a role where the man isn’t animated.
A Series of Unfortunate Events will have you giggling, gasping and gripping your couch pillows all through its 18 episodes available on Netflix. You will thank good fortune you found this one.
Okja (Original Netflix Film)
Who doesn’t like a good heartwarming animal movie? A bond between people and their pets is an endearing idea with versatile uses. In Marley and Me, we see how the dog Marley’s place as the family pet can bring a family closer to another. Free Willy sees a troubled young boy named Jesse form a bond with the orca Willy. As he trains and plays with Willy, he begins to find his place in the world and discover the what freedom really means. Whether it be about the importance of family or responsibility, animal films can serve as a sort catalyst to discuss about societal values and contemporary social climates. All while the audience goes “awww”.
2017’s Okja by renowned Korean director Boon Joon-ho certainly has some things to say about the world we live in now. For a decade, a young girl named Mija has been both friend and caretaker to Okja, a massive genetically modified pig. It was sent to them by the shady environmentalist Mirando Corporation runned by its eccentric and ambitious CEO, Lucy Mirando. But when Mirando wishes to reclaim Okja, Mija along with an animal activist group will go a dangerous infiltration mission to expose the Mirando Corporation for its cruel treatment of the super pigs. Everyone wants a piece of Okja and Mija and friends will try to get the pig out alive in one piece.
Director Boon Joon-ho has made a name for himself as one of the best visual directors in South Korean film business today. One only needs to look at his impressive portfolio with films The Host and Snowpiercer under his belt. This time around he’s tackling a much lighter subject but with all the spectacle he is known for. The CGI-rendered Okja looks almost life-like in appearance and in mannerism. Joon’s attention to detail manages to construct a creature so natural, it dares us to believe that it isn’t real. The stunning realism of Okja as a living, breathing animal makes the bond between Mija and the creature feel all the more intimate and meaningful. Little Ahh Seon-hyun as the feisty Mija was entertaining for it was but something tells me that she was bright future ahead of her. One thing I particularly enjoyed about the film was Tilda Swinton doing her best Cruella de Vil impression as the egotistical and pig-obsessed Lucy Mirando. She took on the role with all the gusto of a woman possessed.
Ultimately, Okja is a film about the conflict of the sacredness of nature and the cruelty of a modern industrial world. It is fitting that the titular Okja becomes the centre of this conflict seeing that she is born a product of both worlds. The film also attacks the phoney neoliberalism of money hungry corporations who parade as enlightened friends of the environment.
Though not as lighthearted or simple as Babe, Okja will no doubt win you over by the end. It’s political messages and social commentary never overtakes the film which at its core is about a girl who loves a giant pig. It is a film that animal lovers will surely enjoy.
That’s a wrap for our three recommended shows available on Netflix this week. Be sure to tune in for more weekly recommendations from your local friendly neighbourhood film publication.
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