These are a pick of current Netflix gems which are perfect for settling the nerves of University or at least escaping from them for an hour or two.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014) 4/5
Created by Kiwi film-maker Taika Waititi – director of 2016’s critically acclaimed Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Disney’s Moana – What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious yet dark comedy-mockumentary about four vampires living together in Wellington, New Zealand.
Co-directed and written by Flight of the Conchords star Jermaine Clement, the film was billed by The Guardian as ‘funniest comedy of the year’ in 2014, and puts previous attempts to tackle the vampire-comedy genre such as Fright Night (2011) and Dark Shadows (2011) to shame, Waititi perfectly judging the balance between the dark and the funny.
Encounters with a gang of socially insecure werewolves and a brilliant gag regarding vampires not having reflections are but two wickedly funny moments in the film that, despite its sinister subject matter, is a surprisingly uplifting and warm comedy which is perfect for lifting those exam period blues.
Sicario (2015) 5/5
From the director of 2016 hit Arrival and the much-anticipated, upcoming Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve’s Oscar-winning Sicario is an adrenaline-fuelled foray into the war on drugs and the Mexican cartel.
Anyone who has watched a film from the French-Canadian auteur will know that Villeneuve pulls no punches in his works, and Sicario is his most brutal and shocking film to date. Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, The Girl on the Train) plays a former FBI agent who is assigned to a CIA task-force, with the objective of finding a Mexican drug baron, accompanied by a grizzly CIA officer played by Josh Brolin (There Will be Blood, No Country for Old Men) and Benicio Del Toro’s (Che, Guardians of the Galaxy) mysterious Alejandro.
Visually stunning and ingeniously written, the city of Juarez and the surrounding desert are shot so ominously that the on-screen locations truly feel alien, akin to the representation of the middle-east in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2012).
Equally impressive is Blunt’s brilliant performance as the protagonist, mirroring exquisitely the paranoia and dread the film induces in the audience. Arguably the best thriller currently on Netflix, if you need a film to help you forget those pre-exam butterflies for a couple of hours, Sicario will definitely do the job.
The Nice Guys (2016) 4/5
A slightly different tone of film from Sicario, The Nice Guys is an upbeat crime-comedy thriller starring Ryan Gosling (Drive, La La Land) and Russel Crowe (Gladiator, Les Misérables). Set in 1977, Gosling’s Holland March is a private detective who unwittingly crosses paths with Crowe’s glorified thug-for-hire Jackson Healy, who then both proceed to investigate the disappearance of a young girl.
Not to be confused with Will Ferrell’s much sillier and more brainless The Other Guys (2010), The Nice Guys is a colourful, comic caper which juggles tactfully the laugh-out-loud funny and the neo-noir thriller. The two main characters are flawed yet loveable, with the chemistry between Gosling and Crowe the driving force behind the success of the film’s gags and narrative.
Director and writer Shane Black is no stranger to the crime genre, having written the Lethal Weapon film series, but after the distinctly average Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) and the latest Iron Man sequel, The Nice Guys is a return to form, and is one of the funniest films on Netflix at the moment.
Honourable Mention: The Lobster (2015) 3/5
An acquired taste and definitely not everybody’s cup of tea, despite the glum, deadpan nature of the film, The Lobster is undoubtedly one of a kind. Colin Farrell stars as the recently dumped David who is sent to a countryside hotel in a dystopia where single-life is forbidden, and all partner-less residents must find a spouse within 45 days, failure in doing so resulting in being turned into an animal of their choice.
With supporting performances from Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas, Skyfall) and John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph, Kong: Skull Island), Farrell is unrecognisable with a beer belly and a pair of dorky spectacles, worlds apart from his roles in Hollywood juggernauts such as Total Recall (2012) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016).
Ultimately a scathing attack on the concept of love, The Lobster is gloomy yet ‘hideously funny’, the morbid, satirical and dystopian nature of which making it a must-watch particularly for fans of recent Netflix addition Black Mirror.