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.
This week, get ready to enter into the heart of madness because we’re taking a look at some of the trippiest thrillers out there. Films that will have your head spinning, your heart racing. Sometimes, it’s good to go a little mad.
A Clockwork Orange (Non-Netflix Original)
Once again, Netflix has shown itself to be an invaluable asset in finding rare jewels that would have otherwise remained under the radar in Malaysia. Let’s be honest, no one’s rushing to off to their local DVD store looking for Hitchcock or Michael Mann films. For our pick this week, we’re going with another masterpiece from cinematic god, Stanley Kubrick. His work has always had a potent emotional effect on the human psyche and spirit whether it be fear in The Shining, innocence loss in Fullmetal Jacket or wonder in 2001. But since we’re walking more on the wild side of things this week, A Clockwork Orange shall be our choice.
In a fictionalized future version of the UK, the youth of the time have become a lot more brazen in their hedonism and liberal in their use of violence. The spirit of the age being exemplified in a particularly nasty young man, Alex DeLarge and his merry band of thugs known as the “droogs”. Together they terrorize the streets and homes of local residents. Assaulting, vandalizing and raping all in the name of a jolly good time. But one night when Alex takes it too far with the act of murder, he’s brought in by British authorities to be more than just a prisoner. He becomes subject to a strange and unorthodox experiment used to brainwash criminals into becoming morally upright citizens. Seemingly reformed, Alex is released back into the world as neutered, fangless mutt in lieu of the mad dog he once was. Now he must walk a mile the shoes of the average citizen.
A Clockwork Orange is social commentary in its sharpest and most entertaining form. The film is a magnificent ode to the countercultural revolution brewing in the times of the 70’s, when anti-establishment and poststructuralist movements took off in the West. Kubrick vividly shows us the nightmarish sides of both societal power structures and the movement itself. The unchecked sadistic tendencies that Alex display is juxtaposed by an obsessive control freak cabal of structural powers represented by the executive, religious and judicial authorities that clamp down on him.
This theme of the suppression of primal urges is no only reflected in the characters and narrative of Kubrick’s parable. It is also seen in the art style and symbolism that is prevalent throughout the aesthetic of the film’s world. Phallic shaped objects and decor that reflect sexual allusions are everywhere in this film, serving as an allegory for how our repressed animalistic wants are expressed in a variety of ways. Serving to build diegesis and atmosphere, Kubrick has painted a truly colourful picture of postmodern dystopia. All this is brought to life by a troupe of talented thespians. Some of my favourite performances comes from Malcolm McDowell as the charming psychopath Alex and Aubrey Morris as P.R. Deltoid, Alex’s probation officer (mm yes, he’s quite good). One thing to note though is that the nature of some of the events in this film is extremely graphic. Kubrick really goes for the jugular here.So if you’re squeamish or have delicate sensibilities, you may want to tread lightly around the film.
Films like The Dark Knight and Fight Club owe a great deal to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Its films like this have paved the way for a bolder and more thoughtful brand of cinema to break through to the public. A bloody good time will be had by all!
1922 (Netflix Original Film)
The first time I read the story of “1922” in Stephen King’s collection of novellas Full Dark, No Stars I could have help but think that it would make for a great film. Who knew Netflix too shared my thoughts? Well, to be honest, it’s no surprise seeing that King’s work has been picking up traction with studios looking to adapt his work left, right and center. The results so far have been a bit of a mixed bag. Some have yielded great success with films like Gerald’s Game and It winning over viewers and critics alike. Then we have B-Grade schlock like The Dark Tower and The Mist TV series. It is my happy duty today to tell you that 1922 qualifies more in the former than the latter.
The James’ live a simple life in Nebraska as farmers and ranchers. The patriarch of the family, Wilfred James or Will doesn’t necessarily see much of a problem with this but his wife, Arlette would disagree. She constantly pressures Will to sell the land she owns to move to the city of Omaha. Meanwhile, their youngest son Henry wants nothing more than to stay in his small town community out of love for Shannon, he girl he’s sweet on. At his wit’s end, Will conspires with his son to murder Arlette after getting her drunk on wine, leaving him to inherit Arlette’s property. Thus, maintaining their way of life. But things quickly begin to get out of hand as local authorities begin eyeballing the two after Arlette’s disappearance. Young Henry is wracked with guilt and Will is seeing spectral visions of his deceased wife. It is the year 1922 and for James’, it shall be a year that will haunt for them for the rest of their lives.
Let me just say that I am impressed at actor Thomas Jane who has really showed himself capable of holding a strong dramatic role throughout the film. In the past, he’s mostly been pegged as a bit of the archetypal macho man meathead but he really holds his own here. Watching him weep and winge as he tries to keep the sins of his past at bay was truly an uncomfortable viewing and I mean it in the best way possible. Sharing the screen with him are Dylan Schmid as the naive and somewhat dull son Henry and Molly Parker as the wife, alive and dead.
The film significantly streamlines most of the plot points of the novella, giving us only the meaty parts of its source material. Nonetheless, the pacing in the film manages to keep this suspense ride flowing at a steady, nerve wracking rhythm. The imagery in 1922 works for the most part, giving us memorable moments particularly when the walls begin to close around Will. There are some instances however when the visual effects take a bit of dip with character models looking more puppet like than human. Thankfully those scenes are brief and far between.
Family, betrayal and murder most foul, 1922 is a well-paced piece of gothic psychological horror that will have you hiding between the sheets and rescheduling your next family reunion dinner.
Revenge (Foreign Language Film- French)
It can be hard sometimes to be a female fan of action films, seeing that the ladies don’t always get the representation they need in the genre. The action film genre has been mostly and traditionally a male-dominated domain. But over the years, we’ve seen women make their mark in the industry with actresses like Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 and of course Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill Vol.1 and Vol.2. Recently we’ve seen women take the leading role in films with Charlize Theron kicking butt and taking names in 2017’s Atomic Blonde. The same year French director Coralie Fargeat has too thrown her hat in the ring with Revenge, an uber-violent female empowerment revenge fantasy available on Netflix.
An American girl named Jen goes on a getaway vacation with her secret French lover, Richard. She soon realizes though that she and Richard aren’t the only ones in his beautiful house in the middle of the desert. Along for their trip are some of Richard’s more morally dubious associates, Dmitri and Stanley. After a night of dancing and mind-altering substances, Jen wakes up the next morning only to find Richard isn’t there. Stanley takes advantage situation to force himself unto Jen. Upon his return, Richard tries to keep Jen quiet about her sexual assault by any means necessary. Things go from bad to worse though when she flees the scene and is plunged off a cliff to her death, or so the three men thought. Little do they know, Jen is still very much alive and out for blood and soon she turns the table on the men, looking to put them all in a world of hurt.
Like a sharpened stiletto, Revenge’s confined and focus premise allows the film to excel as an effective action thriller. Is the film banking on your moral outrage at rape? Probably but damn it feels great to see them get their comeuppance when Jen comes charging back with a vengeance. The film, being fully aware of its exploitative nature doesn’t try to dress it under the veneer of trying to address serious social issues. In fact, the whole affair leans into a realm of ultraviolence with the violence being heavily stylized and exaggerated. At times, the film will even go off on a psychedelic tangent, giving us some incredibly gorgeous scenes of gore. One amazing scene involving a sniper rifle will have you feeling it in the next day. You’ll get what I mean if you so choose to watch the film.
Italian actress and model Matilda Lutz brings fierce energy as the scorned lover turned killer. We really get a sense of what she’s made off when we see her crawling out a life-threatening situation to try to mend herself. There something so elegant and yet brutal about watching this young woman rise from the ashes of death to burn her enemies. Though she is no Beatrix Kiddo, Jen is a quick second to her and in time I see her becoming a female icon of cinema and Revenge turning into a cult classic.
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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