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).

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 7.25.58 PM

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.

1200

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?

screen-shot-2017-04-11-at-8-17-56-pm.png

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.

NEJmxJLTg3I6NJ_1_b

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.

kubo-main_0

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.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 10.21.28 PM

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.

Netflix Releases Death Note Film Teaser

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 4.37.40 PM

Earlier this week on Wednesday, March 22nd, the popular streaming service Netflix released a teaser trailer featuring an upcoming original film, based off the well-known Japanese manga and anime Death Note, set to be available for viewing on August 25th.

When I initially heard the news of Netflix taking on the project I was overjoyed. Death Note has been and remains today, as one of the few anime’s that rightfully occupy the top of my best anime ever made list. The concept and characters were refreshingly original and well played out from the very first episode and naturally attracted a large fan base in both Asia and overseas. A set of Japanese live action films were released in the UK and U.S. back in 2006, following the immense success and popularity of the anime series — adding significant international exposure to the story.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Death Note series I’ll provide a light overview: (chance of slight spoiling, fair warning!) The story is set in Japan and follows an extremely intelligent high-school boy Light Yagami, who often reflected on the purpose of life and his role in society. He was bored and saw himself above his classmates who wasted their hollow lives on short-lived pleasures without amounting to anything in the world. He comes across a magical black notebook with the power to kill anyone, as long as the notebook user has seen their face and written their full name in it’s pages. Light takes the chance to ‘cleanse’ the world of all criminals with the Death Note and further raise himself above the rest of society as a righteous god-like being that will rid the world of all evil.

The cast of the Japanese live action films were all of Asian descent, however the Netflix adaptation is composed of nearly an all-white cast, that has caused quite the stir on social media since it’s announcement. There was similar backlash to the American film adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, set to play in theaters on March 31st. Scarlett Johansson acts as the female lead, who has been previously portrayed as Japanese in all prior media production related to the franchise, which is similarly prominent in both Western and Asian audiences when compared to Death Note.

While some viewers have decided to essentially boycott Netflix’s Death Note after seeing the cast list and teaser trailer — I personally think it looks promising and will reintroduce one of the best anime series to perhaps it’s widest audience yet, and by the best method: home streaming. To reflect today’s consumer, who practically views cassette tapes and CD discs as archaic relics of the past.

To me, there would be a bigger concern towards the actor’s professionalism and accurate depiction of the character’s personality and internal qualities rather than basing everything on appearance. I’d recommend looking past the ethnicity of the cast members and judging their performance in the roles they’ve taken over. Because that’s truly what matters in the end, who they are, not what.

For first-timers to Death Note I highly encourage you to check out the teaser below and Netflix movie adaptation when it releases, but also to watch the anime series (conveniently on Netflix now by the way!) to get a perspective on the story’s origin. if you still aren’t sated after that, you should watch the live action Japanese films starring Tatsuya Fujiwara as Light Yagami and Ken’ichi Matsuyama as L.

Logan Film Review

Logan

Many of us have grown up watching X-Men films. Those who are especially fond have read the dozens of comics the film series is based on. You know them. The people who know the backstory, name and mutant power of each character within seconds of seeing them on-screen. But even a casual would recognize Wolverine, the character that introduced us to the film series in the first X-Men. 

By seeing the world through Wolverine’s perspective, we connect with him as an outsider to seemingly both humans and mutants. He seems initially aggressive and unfriendly, but before long we find that Wolverine is likely apprehensive and a loner because of the state of the world and the existing tensions between mutants and human population. Even with his mindset of ‘every mutant for himself’, we see Wolverine turn back on his beliefs to help Rogue, a fellow mutant still discovering her powers.

Logan-Trailer-Logan-smiling

Despite the defensive cover Wolverine puts up, he plays a key role in the X-Men and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. He won’t openly admit it, but he believes in protecting those caught in the middle in the human-mutant struggle, and regularly does so. Professor X recognizes Logan’s nobleness behind the feral cover his alias offers, they gradually develop a strong connection that transcends their dispositional differences.

In Logan the film is all about looking beyond the Wolverine cover and seeing Logan as a fragment of himself. Older, resigned and withdrawn to the animalistic side of himself, that he’s continually fought against for years. It’s a disheartening scene to witness the X-Men world in the worst state it’s ever been, devoid of any mutants except for Logan and Charles Xavier, who both exhibit signs of extreme illness that could mean they’re close to the end themselves. Charles is fighting dangerous seizures that cause time to seemingly cease and any mutants nearby to keel over in pain. Logan’s healing ability is nearly inactive and it’s even more evident by his obvious signs of aging and loss of sight.

Logan-Trailer-Logan-and-Charles-in-car

They both live in a world they failed to protect, and though Charles remains hopeful that there are still mutants out there to save  — Logan considers Charles’ mind lost and his words mere ramblings of an old man who can no longer see the truth.

Because Logan focuses on a despondent character that thinks only of himself and Charles’ well-being, we’ve never seen him more brutal. The film’s R rating is clearly merited with several fighting scenes that can only be loosely described as gruesome. Gone are the witty words and idle bantering before Logan faces off an enemy (in this film, literally so), we hear strong language throughout the film and often from unexpected characters (I won’t spoil it by naming who!). What stood out to me more than anything else regarding the adult rating was the presence of many young actors in the film, especially considering one of the main characters is barely a teen.

Logan-Trailer-Claws

Different from previous PG-13 spin-offs featuring Wolverine, Logan fulfills an enduring desire to see the brutality he displayed in X-Men comic books. All the while staying true to the noble character fans know and love. By the conclusion of Logan it’s safe to say the Wolverine film many have been yearning for has arrived and finally fulfilled those desires, right before Wolverine’s departure from the X-Men franchise. A bittersweet farewell to say the least.