The Netflix Weekend Watchlist
Message From the King (2017) – Chadwick Boseman (Captain America: Civil War) stars in this revenge-thriller from Belgian filmmaker Fabrice Du Welz (Colt 45) about a South African man who comes to the United States after receiving a frantic message from his sister. He arrives and discovers the worst, and proceeds to piece together her last days, and avenge his sister’s death. Boseman plays the role with a quiet intensity, hinting at the character’s violent past, and the film takes some seriously dark turns. It doesn’t entirely work (there’s a twist at the end that’s a bit too cute) but the film is stylish and engaging throughout.
Nightcrawler (2014) – Jake Gyllenhall might be one of the most underrated actors of his generation. From the starring role in the cult classic Donnie Darko to Oscar-fare such as Brokeback Mountain, he might only have one legitimate misstep on his resume – 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. While not his most recent film, Nightcrawler, by first-time director Dan Gilroy, features one of his best performances as Louis Bloom, a sociopathic con artist who, on a whim, decides to become a freelance photojournalist, videotaping accident and crime scenes and selling the footage to amoral local TV news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo (Thor), in her best role in years).
Starry Eyes (2014) – I’m not really a horror fan, but one of my favorite podcasts (F! This Movie) has led me to a vibrant independent horror scene that I might never have discovered otherwise. Starry Eyes is one of the best I’ve seen, blending influences from Rosemary’s Baby to Cronenberg-esque body horror. The film centers on an aspiring actress - played by Alex Essoe (Tales of Halloween) – who is pushed to discover just how far she’ll go for stardom. The answer (without getting into spoilers) is, of course, pretty far.
Welcome to Leith (2015) - Following the events in Charlottesville several weeks ago, the topic of this 2015 documentary feels even more pressing and crucial. Leith, a North Dakota town with only about two dozen residents, became the site of controversy when neo-Nazi white nationalists bought several plots of land and tried to establish a "whites only" community. This documentary follows the story of the people of Leith trying to come to terms with, and fight back against, this infiltration.
13th (2016) - Exploring the injustices of the criminal 'justice' system, this documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay is infuriating to watch, which is probably what makes it so powerful. DuVernay's ability to effectively weave together historical fact and personal narratives into a film that simultaneously angers, frightens, and inspires, is unmatched. This documentary should be required watching for anyone concerned with racial justice and the prison-industrial complex in the United States.
Fruitvale Station (2013) - Another infuriating, but absolutely necessary film, Fruitvale Station tells the real-life story of Oscar Grant III (played here by the low-key, but mesmerizing, Michael B. Jordan), a young black man who was shot and killed by the police at a Bay Area train station on New Years Day, 2009. The film begins with actual cell phone camera footage of Oscar Grant and several of his friends being detained by the police at the station, while onlookers stand by helplessly. The gunshot that killed Oscar Grant is the echo that rings through the entire film - after those brutal first minutes, it is impossible to watch the film without an intense feeling of dread.