Once again, we’re back with our Netflix column to help you cut down on your ambivalence and make your entertainment consumption a more seamless process. Just a few days ago, Netflix implemented their new Siskel & Ebert-style thumbs up/thumbs down rating system. It remains to be seen how this will improve the site’s previous 5-star rating system, but if we’re being honest, the old ratings weren’t exactly perfect. While many thought the red stars were the rating given by all Netflix members across the board, they were actually a reflection of other members who shared similar tastes. Or something like that.
But for those looking for viewing suggestions that go beyond thumbs and stars, we got you covered. First up is the entertaining Korean horror flick Train to Busan. With a story that emphasizes the unbreakable bond between and a father and daughter, this is probably the direction Spielberg would go if he ever decided to make a zombie movie.
Next up are a couple of sports docs to mark the official start of baseball season and to keep the good times of last weekend’s WrestleMania going: No No: A Dockumentary is the true story of how pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter high on LSD, and the endearing GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling looks back at the cult ‘80s TV show that championed female wrasslin’.
For those searching for films that invite you to think, The Discovery (starring Robert Redford, Jason Segel, and Rooney Mara) is a drama that delves into whether or not there is an afterlife, and the obscene Spanish soap opera Skins is one of the weirdest movies you’re likely to come across — if you can muster the courage.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Train to Busan (2016)
Starring: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Dong-seok Ma
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Action, Drama
A decade ago, Snakes on a Plane let us imagine the terror of being surrounded mid-air by a bunch of deadly vipers. In Train to Busan, that nightmare scenario gets kicked up a notch with a taste of the undead — i.e. zombies on a train.
It’s no secret that the zombie formula has been running on fumes for years. As such, it’s cool to see a zombie flick up the ante by making the chances for survival more difficult. It’s riveting to watch terrified passengers on a packed Korean commuter train trapped with a fast-moving, ever-growing horde of the undead. Yes, there are gruesome deaths, but there’s also a lot of drama in the way this deadly crisis brings out the best and worst in people who go to extremes to survive or protect loved ones.
At the center of the horror is a businessman father and his young daughter. Their journey does tend to get hokey towards the finale, but overall, Train to Busan proves to be a nerve-racking and even darkly humorous watch worth sitting through.
No No: A Dockumentary (2014)
Starring: Dock Ellis
Director: Jeff Radice
Genre: Documentary, Sports
Dock Ellis might be best remembered for throwing a no-hitter in 1970 while tripping on acid. But as we learn in this intriguing documentary that should appeal to even non-baseball fans, there was more to Ellis than just that intoxicated game.
Known for his flamboyant antics both on and off the field, Ellis, who played his entire career under the influence of drugs and alcohol, often employed unorthodox methods of gamesmanship to win games. But Ellis was also someone not afraid to speak up about racial matters during a time of great cultural changes. (It’s only fitting he was on the first major league team with an all black and Latino line-up.)
The main strength of No No is the vivid recollections by Ellis and his former teammates. They have a commanding way of telling stories. Also keeping things moving along is the funky score by Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys. What we end up with is a honest look at an imperfect man who made mistakes, but also secured his place in both drug history and sports lore in the most unforgettable way possible.
GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (2012)
Starring: Mountain Fiji, Matilda the Hun, Tina Ferrari, Ninotchka, Big Bad Mama
Director: Brett Whitcomb
Genre: Documentary, Sports
GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was the first all-female wrestling show on television. Rumors were that the low-budget program, which aired from 1986 to 1990, was either a tax write-off or an elaborate infomercial for products plugged by the wrestlers. Whatever the case, GLOW attracted an audience that ranged from young girls who looked up to the wrestling heroines to men who undoubtedly enjoyed the scantily-clad competitors.
Perhaps the best thing about this loving look at the highs and lows of the crew is the larger-than-life personalities of the organization’s biggest stars. Their collective story is fascinating, and the doc chronicles the early days when the wrestlers lived together in Las Vegas under strict rules while getting trained by Mando Guerrero, brother of the late WWE star Eddie Guerrero.
The women also talk openly about the various injuries they endured, and some of the behind-the-scenes chaos. In the end, you get a real sense of how special the experience was for these athlete-entertainers, so much so that you’ll probably end up teary-eyed by the time the final credits roll.
The Discovery (2017)
Starring: Robert Redford, Jason Segel, Rooney Mara
Director: Charlie McDowell
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
When news hits that there’s scientific proof of an afterlife, millions of people commit suicide in order to start their lives over. With a premise like that you’re probably expecting a movie full of end-of-the-world tension and heavenly visions. And there is some of that in The Discovery, but in very small doses. Instead of tackling the daunting question of “What happens after we die?” on a grand scale, the filmmakers opt to narrow things down.
The movie revolves around the adult son (Jason Segel) of the scientist (Robert Redford) who made “the discovery,” and his attempts to reconcile with his father while simultaneously trying to connect with an emotionally-distant woman (Rooney Mara) he’s recently met. Although the slow-moving film does follow through on its own theory of the afterlife, the main focus is on family and forgiveness, as well as the difficult process of recovering from grief.
Starring: Ana Polvorosa, Macarena Gómez, Candela Peña
Director: Eduardo Casanova
Genre: Comedy, Cult
If you liked to be shocked, then stop reading, don’t watch the (NSFW) trailer, and just go watch Skins.
But if you’re still undecided about what to watch tonight, just know this is a rare movie that attempts a million different things — making you laugh, making you queasy, making you question fucking life itself — and succeeds in pulling them all off, almost effortlessly. Now that’s pretty big praise, especially for a movie that features a young woman who was born with a butthole for a mouth. But Skins is something special.
The must-see Spanish oddity about people with various physical deformities takes interconnecting story lines that feel straight out of a soap opera and somehow manages to transcend the melodrama with some genuine emotion. But the film also swerves on a dime, turning offensive, absurd, and gross whenever it wants, doing so against a constant purple and pink color scheme (way too happy a palette for all the messed-up stuff happening on screen). But no matter how you feel about this stranger-than-strange movie, there’s no denying it’s the work of a real artist, even if a real strange one.