Browsing: This Week On Demand

Reviews the_square_2013_2

“The people demand the downfall of the regime” is the tagline dominating the poster for The Square in increasingly prominent typeface, like the ever-growing chant of the Egyptian protesters who gathered in Tahrir square in 2011. How appropriate to speak of public demand: this documentary is the latest step in Netflix’s calculated move into original programming, a smart series of commissions and acquisitions channelling the data-driven image of what viewers would like to watch into productions they can, right now. Where earlier iterations of this process have thrown up crowd-pleasing trifle like The Short Game, The Square—like House of Cards—is evidence of exactly how Netflix’s meticulous method needn’t necessarily make for a safe bet at the expense of quality material, having already netted—like House of Cards—major awards acclaim.

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What a weak week of releases we have here behind us, albeit at least not so much in quality as in quantity. It’s a long while now since Netflix has so quiet a week that we could so easily cover almost all additions. Good that there are, as (almost) ever, gems—or, rather, a gem—among them: the bulk of this batch makes for passable viewing, but a single superb standout leads the pack, rearing its head to remind us that we mustn’t get lost too deep in the films of awards season for fear of losing more deserving greats like these.

Reviews jjem_2013_3

There’s a little moment, not far from the end of Jack, Jules, Esther & Me, where the former two titular teens silently sit together, their faces those of people who understand and appreciate each other despite a storied past. We might well recognise the moment ourselves, wherein argument gives way to acceptance and we realise the people we love are that despite their failings, despite never quite being the people we wish they were. So it is with the movie itself, which makes strides in coming to admit that its characters are not the people it wishes it could adore. Here is a coming-of-age comedy that comes to nothing more important than the admission that they—and we with them—are lesser than the decent people they might dream themselves.

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What better way to start another year on demand than with a bumper edition column that not only gives you more choice than we wager you’ll know what to do with, but also sees this series reach the frankly frightening milestone of one thousand movies covered. That’s—at a conservative estimate—sixty-three days worth of Netflix we’ve watched to bring you these recommendation. And boy are we glad to do it. Here’s to what we hope will be a heck of a 2014 on demand. Here’s to another sixty-three days.

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Why has this column come to count eight as the minimum number of films to be contained? I can’t tell you, in truth; perhaps, being as it is a weekly list of recommendation, eight is the ideal number to ape a baker’s dozen, as it were. Either way, it feels odd to give you only six, but wanting to bequeath you these before the year is up, and not wanting it to end with me watching near universally reviled horror remakes (Texas Chainsaw 3D and The Fog, if you dare), I must say sorry and settle for six. Given that it takes us to a grand total of 693 movies for the year—plus four seasons of television—I think it may constitute a fair compromise. Here’s to 694 or more in 2014.

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Season’s greetings streamers, and apologies as ever for an—understandably, I dare hope—delayed instalment of your weekly Netflix fix. Almost entirely of this year are the films below, a fitting slate for those still struggling to catch as many 2013 releases as possible before deciding which ought to be deemed its best. And better news yet: near half of them, per this unworthy opinion, ought not to be overlooked. Get to it!

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It’s been a wild few weeks at the TWoD offices, by which I mean that it hasn’t been that at all. The efforts of concocting a comprehensive (by our standards, at least) guide to the year in streaming, and an unfortunate inconvenience of timing sees to it that this edition has to shoulder some three weeks worth of Netflix Instant additions. Be they good or bad, those films below are the most noteworthy of the bunch, carefully culled from an ever-sprawling list for your consideration. Also covered, in feature-length review form here, is Post Tenebras Lux, which deserved at-length elucidation for all the wrong reasons.

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It’s only a third of the way into Post Tenebras Lux that it falls apart, which is a shame given the magnificent movie it is to behold on a purely visual level. Carlos Reygadas’ fourth film—and first since his brilliant breakthrough, or at least the closest a director this experimental in inclination can come to having one, with 2007’s Silent Light—earned him the best director prize at Cannes last year, an understandable accolade in the face of such extraordinary aesthetic triumph. Look no further than his opening scene, a sequence to rival that even of its predecessor, for evidence that this is one of the medium’s great masters at work. Tracing the plodding path of a delighted toddler through a rain-soaked field filled with animals as a storm gathers in the sky above, it’s a tremendous, terrifying tableau vivant emblematic of all the ill-ease that’s to come.

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It’s a strange sort of week on demand this time, tossing into the mix an unusually ripe selection of older options, especially given the recent efforts to bulk the 2013 releases. There’s plenty more of those this time, though, don’t you worry: Netflix remains one of the best places to catch up on the year in film. Few will claim any of the below choices as among the year’s very finest—save, perhaps, one—but that shouldn’t hold you back from digging in.

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