Netflix’s April Highlight Releases

Netflix is known as one of the most popular streaming services today, alongside Hulu and Amazon Instant and many others. I personally use Netflix and Amazon Instant because between those two services I can usually access most shows or films that I’m interested in. Netflix offers popular shows and movies regularly but has also started this steady stream of high-quality original productions that easily stand on their own. Amazon Instant was a useful add-on with a Prime membership, I used it predominantly to purchase and stream recently released movies I hadn’t had the chance to watch in theaters. Out of the two, I prefer Netflix and eagerly monitor monthly additions to the service. I decided to skim over the April Netflix releases and share the new titles I’m most excited about watching, (over my popcorn substitute — a warm and comforting bowl of ramen).

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Kevin Hart: What Now? – Available April 11th

I’ll admit two years ago if you’d asked me who Kevin Hart was, I couldn’t tell you. Fast forward to today and he’s top on my list of stand-up comedian favorites alongside Louie C.K. (spoils, he’s also on this list with Netflix special release this month), Russell Peters, Stephen Merchant, Simon Pegg and Eddie Murphy. After watching his 2008 documentary “I’m a Grown Little Man”, I took in the brilliant almost painful honesty of his jokes and became immediately absorbed in the relatability of who he was. The difference between us was that Kevin Hart wasn’t embarrassed to talk about his insecurities (mainly his low height). He’s come a long way, not only as a comedian but an actor and overall entertainer. I frequently see him on talk shows promoting either a tour or a special… or several movies at once. He’s worked incredibly hard in a short period of time to hone his own comedic style that viewers can’t help but notice. Hart has rightfully earned numerous entertainment awards and a seat among the ranks of the most relevant stand-up comedians today. What Now? is a comedy film that is split into a spy tale and a comedic performance, the prior being filmed at the Philidelphia Lincoln Financial football stadium, historically marking a first for a comedian to fill out an entire stadium.

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Louie C.K. 2017 – Available April 1st 

I’ve been a fan of Louie C.K. ever since I came across his Live at the Beacon Center (complete!) stand-up special on YouTube. What immediately drew me to his humor was something I’m still fighting to comprehend about myself. Imagine the darkest, most uncomfortable and unmentionable subjects or thoughts you ever could about societies norms or expectations and you have Louie’s favorite material. From casually spouting out racial slurs, to diving head first into sensitive topics such as rape, suicide, and pedophilia. There seems to be no topic black-listed, no boundary to cross in Louie’s world, and that’s exactly what makes him one of the best comics out there. He skillfully projects this image of being this lazy, 40-something, slightly perverted and helpless member of society that can be seen as the very definition of mediocrity. Don’t let him fool you though — Louie C.K. plays a major role in his productions, often directing, writing and editing material while also starring in them. His latest special 2017 follows his trend of honing in on uncomfortable and controversial topics, remarking on the worst prospect or thought related to them and coaxing us to question how we truly feel about them. For example, how do you really feel about abortion?

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Tropic Thunder – Available April 1st 

Tropic Thunder was originally released in 2008 and boasts a considerably reputable all-star cast that includes Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., (young!) Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise and more. I didn’t have a chance to watch the entire film when it was initially released, but thanks to Netflix I now have the chance to watch it through! If you haven’t seen it, the basic plot of Tropic Thunder involves a variety of fictional actors hired on to star in the most expensive war film ever produced. The actors are flown out to Asia believing they’ll be filming in an authentic jungle-like environment that resembles a war zone Vietnam. Due to circumstances, the film loses it’s director and the actors navigate dangerous terrain all whilst believing they’re on set, filming. It makes for an amusing series of events with Stiller’s over-the-top character as the troop leader, Robert Downey Jr. playing as an African American as well as an Australian, and Jack Black as the comic relief that manages to shine in an already comical environment. The cast is what made this film memorable for me, considering that Ben Stiller both directed and produced it, you get the sense that he assigned cast members according to his friend’s list.  Not unlike an Adam Sandler movie that always includes Kevin James or Rob Schneider. It works because of the chemistry between cast members, you just know they’re goofing off both off and on camera and it just adds to the appeal of such a silly, action-packed movie.

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Gremlins – Available April 1st 

There are certain films that you are expected to know and love from your childhood, Gremlins is one of those films. Released two years after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, it comes as no surprise to me that Steven Spielberg, creator of E.T. acted as an executive director. Gremlins starts off with the same basic idea of a strange alien creature falling into the care of a young character. The creature comes off as harmless, but before long starts to exhibit signs of becoming a threat to not only its young caretaker but the community it’s found itself in. Unlike E.T., Gremlins is less sci-fi and more horror in its portrayal of the strange creature and its ability to wreak havoc on the world and its inhabitants. For those nostalgic of the scary but comedic style of the 1980s, take the chance to relive them in a great watch for the family.

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Kubo and the Two Strings: Available April 8th

When I first saw the preview for Kubo and the Two Strings I immediately thought of animated favorites such as Caroline and The Nightmare Before Christmas that also featured unique animation styles. The plot follows a young eye-patched, Japanese boy named Kubo who lived in a cave with his sick mother near a small village in the mountains. He visited the village during the day to perform magic stories, acted out by using colorful paper sheets that resemble those used in the art of origami. When the sun fell, Kubo would return to the cave he occupied with his mother, heeding her warning to never stay out at night, for fear he would be found by his aunts and have his remaining eye stolen. Kubo soon finds himself thrown into a quest in searching for his father’s armor to guard against his aunts and grandfather, who seek to steal his eye, which seems to act as the origin of his magical abilities. Because of the unique art style and feudal Japan setting, I felt like the animations incorporated ancient Japanese puppet shows — especially with the character’s heads projected as more detailed and larger than the rest of their bodies and their hands often being the source of most movement and expression. Kubo and the Two Strings is a family film but is definitely darker than most Disney films these days, so be warned for young viewers. The story touches on mental illness, loss, death and physical impairment as the main character is partially blind. I have to admit I didn’t expect the film to conclude the way it did but it was still enjoyable for its original concept and flawless art style, it’s a refreshing change from what we commonly see in animations today and has been recognized as the 2016 Best Animated Film by the British Academy Awards and won the Academy for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Visual Effects.

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Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey – Available April 15th 

I rarely watch films more than once, but one of the few that I’m happy to watch every year is none other than the heartwarming tale of three pets, Shadow the Golden Retriever, Sassy the Siamese cat, and Chance the Pit Bull, who set out on a perilous journey to find their owners. As a pet owner (specifically of a Golden Retriever) I feel the immediate pull on my heartstrings when Shadow decides to take initiative in finding his owner the eldest child of the family, Peter. He fears for his safety when the farm owner who acts as their host leaves to work the fields on her farm, deciding to follow his senses to find Peter and the rest of the family. Sassy and Chance, not wanting to be left alone on the farm, follow Shadow. Before long you can see they clearly have the same dedication and selfless love for their owners as Shadow displays. Originally released the same year I was born (1993!), Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey will continue to be a timeless classic for any viewer, whether they be a pet lover or not or happen to be an adult watching with an adult, this film will offer an astonishing, charming story for anyone.

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