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WMovies

By Don Gillette

War movies are a real niche genre. For veterans, male and female, the movies have to be right around 100% realistic or we start yelling at the screen. If we hear somebody say, “Over and out” on the radio, it sends us into a wall-punching fit (you’re either “over” or you’re “out” but never both.) For men who never served in the Armed Forces, it gives a taste of what it might be like in battle, but with a bag of chips and a beer on the table next to the chair—nothing wrong with that. Not everybody is Audie Murphy. For women who never served… well… to be honest, I don’t know any non-veteran women who actually like war movies unless they happen to be married to a veteran and even then, it’s iffy. Before the hate mail shows up, I’m sure there are women who love war movies and don’t fit into that category. I just don’t know any.

Netflix has quite a selection of war movies currently streaming. Some of them are great and some are dogs; this might help you decide how to spend your evening if you’re in the mood…

The Good:

The Longest Day

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One of the greatest war movies ever made, The Longest Day tells the story of the D-Day invasion of Normandy that led to the end of World War II. Although it’s an all-star cast headed by the likes of John Wayne, Richard Burton, and Henry Fonda (among others), the movie is so gripping that you don’t even notice who you’re watching because they all become their characters. This is a long film—3 hours—but well worth your time. If you’ve ever wondered why they call the folks from this era “The Greatest Generation,” watch this film and you’ll know.

We Were Soldiers

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This is the story of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry’s battle against the North Vietnamese Army in La Drang valley in 1965—the first battle of the Vietnam War. Mel Gibson does a super job as Lt. Col. Hal Moore, the battalion commander, and the re-telling of the operation along with the battalion’s training and preparation are right on the money. Equally interesting are the back stories of the wives and families of the combatants. They got this one right—there are no heroes, no glorification of war; just a story of guys doing their job and the families they left behind waiting.

Tora! Tora! Tora!

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An outstanding war movie that will have you shaking your head constantly at the blunders and mistakes the United States made that allowed the brutally savage Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to occur. This film tells the story from both sides and is almost “documentary” in style, but that does nothing to detract from the dramatic and gut-wrenching attack scenes. One of the great history lessons every committed to film, this powerhouse explains the stupidity of countries going to war better than almost any other movie out there.

Twelve O’Clock High

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This is “Patton” in the air. Gregory Peck plays Brigadier General Frank Savage, the meanest S.O.B. to ever fly through the sky. He takes over a demoralized, resentful, slipshod B-24 squadron and whips them back into shape by being a hard-ass; but underneath, we get a glimpse of the emotional and psychological cost of command. Based on the 306th Bomber Group (the first American bomber group to fly over Germany), this movie is a nice glimpse into how the air war was conducted.

Braveheart

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Nobody cares that Mel Gibson turned into a flaming asshole over the past few years because he was William Wallace, Colonel Hal Moore, Mad Max, Fletcher Christian, Martin Riggs, Bret Maverick, and Benjamin Martin. And you do not want to piss any of these guys off. In Braveheart, when his secret bride is murdered by an English soldier who tried to rape her, William Wallace starts a revolt against King Edward I of England. No, it’s not completely, historically accurate; no, it’s not a history lesson. But it’s action-packed and has every element you should look for in a war movie including one of the greatest battle scenes every put on film.

Inglourious Basterds

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Quentin Tarantino hit another one out of the ballpark with this masterpiece. The real Inglorious Bastards were a British commando force of Jewish exiles from Germany and Eastern Europe who operated as spies during World War II. Chances are good that this film is 99% fiction, but nobody does violence, characters, and plots like Tarantino when he’s in the zone and he’s definitely in the zone with this one.

The Bad:

I’m not going to waste your time giving you links to these turds–just pass them by.

Jarhead 2

Jarhead with Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx was a great movie. Jarhead 2 with a couple of guys I’ve never heard of was a joke.

Seal Team 8

Poor old Tom Sizemore can’t catch a break or a good role in a decent move. I guess it’s tough to play a convincing member of a Seal Team when you’re 55 and you look like you’re 90.

Saints and Soldiers: The Void

An extremely low-budget, preachy attempt to inject racism into a World War II tank movie. There are no racists in foxholes. When you’re being shot at, you don’t care what color the guy next to you is.

The Ugly:

Field of Lost Shoes

Laughable.

Day of the Siege

Makes you wonder what F. Murray Abraham was thinking when he signed on to this. Probably “$$$.”

Boys of Abu Ghraib

One of the truly stupidest war movies ever made and completely inaccurate in every way.

Fortress

I wanted to like this because it’s based on actual events concerning an Irish-American B17 bomber crew, but I didn’t.


“The Good” are films you really should see. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but they should be mandatory viewing for anybody who thinks war is fun and for anybody who glorifies war without ever having been in one. “The Bad” aren’t really awful—they’re just not… good. But “The Ugly” are truly ugly, so don’t waste your time.

 

Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee who also spent 25 years in the US Armed Forces. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.

Best Movies On Netflix 2016

 

Welcome to the 2016 official guide to the Best Movies On Netflix presented by Whats On Netflix.   In the next 50 pages we will cover all the top movies available for your streaming pleasure.

Make sure you keep this page bookmarked as Netflix updates its streaming library monthly some movies might not be available.

If you come across a movie that’s unavailable please be sure to reach out to us on social media so we can update the list. We will do our best to keep it updated but after all we are only human.

Now without further ado here our Official 2016 Guide To The Best Movies On Netflix. If you feel we left a movie off the list feel free to let us know down in the comments!

 

DON’T MISS: The Best Documentaries on Netflix – 2016 Guide

 

Best Movies On Netflix #50

 The Discoverers

Release Year: 2012

Director: Justin Schwarz

“Simple, dialogue driven, performance driven stories about quirky families who end up in a kind of crazy crisis,  they all re-connect while trying to deal with the situation they’re in. Been done a hundred times before, right? A few of these movies actually succeed in telling this kind of story though, and are fairly good. Little Miss Sunshine comes to mind. This film isn’t as good as that one, but nevertheless it’s still a good offering within that kind of genre.”

 

Best Movies On Netflix - 2016

Rosewater

Release Year: 2014

Written by Jon Stewart (Based on the book They Came For Me by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Malloy)

Directed by Jon Stewart

Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia

“Brilliant! A great show of force by the Jon Stewart in his 1st direction of a major motion picture! The actors were wonderful and the plot and script was complex and a story that needs to be told that the Iranian/Persian people are fighting back within the country against the government. Mr. Bahari’s story was one of many & I am thoroughly happy & impressed the Jon Stewart decided to bring attention the Persian peoples fight for democracy in his first film! Highly recommend especially for the uneducated because the mainstream media surely won’t expose you to stories such as this in the country Iran.”

 

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Chinatown 

Release Year: 1974

Directed by Roman Polanski

Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston 

With a suspicious femme fatale bankrolling his snooping, private eye J.J. Gittes uncovers intricate dirty dealings in the Los Angeles waterworks and gets his nose slashed for his trouble in director Roman Polanski’s complex neonoir classic.

Nicholson saunters though a 1930’s LA with confidence, until he pulls the wrong thread and find himself in the middle of a messy unraveling. Although just as entwined, Dunaway proceeds with caution and finds herself torn between the lies and the truths surrounding her life. Together, the pair light up the screen with coy smiles and excellent senses of style, timing, and tone. The story was basic but kept my attention, much like HBO’s “True Detective”- you witness the lengths a snoop will go to solve a case while taking in glances at his own personality. This film is smart, slick, and suspenseful. Highly recommended.

 

good-will-huntin-590x900

 Good Will Hunting

Release Year: 1997

Directed by Gus Van Sant

Starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgard, Minnie Driver

HorrorFilms2

 

HorrorFilms2

By Don Gillette

Whew…
Good thing I didn’t try to review “Chick Flicks” or I never would have finished this little epistle. There are a million of those on Netflix, but still only 42 horror movies. My last column ran through the first 21 and here are the remaining 21 horror films streaming on Netflix:

A Haunted House 2:

haunted2

Not really a horror film, but it shows up when you look for “Horror” on Netflix. I’m a stickler for accuracy, so I have to include it. Having said that, though, it really is frightening, scary, and creepy that this film ever got made because it’s the stupidest waste of celluloid I’ve ever had to sit through. I can’t give you a plot synopsis because there is no plot. Depending on your sense of humor, you’ll either love this or hate it. If your sense of humor stopped developing when you were 7, it’s your cup of tea. Yes, I know I’m not rating Oscar winners or documentaries about the Holocaust–but this thing was neither scary nor funny. It was just bad.

The Damned:

damned

A family traveling in Colombia gets in a traffic accident and they hole up for the night in an inn. When they hear activity in the basement, they go down there and free a girl who was trapped inside. Surprise–the girl is an evil spirit. The Damned, also known as Gallows Hill is a pretty good horror movie; it’s formulaic, there are some good scares, the acting is decent, and it’s plenty creepy. Usually I avoid movies that were “also known as” because normally this means, “this was a shitty movie so we changed the title hoping you wouldn’t notice,” but on a dark and stormy night, you might enjoy this one.

Mercy:

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If you’re reading this particular column, you’re probably a Stephen King fan. If you’re a Stephen King fan, you might remember his short story “Gramma.” This film is based on that story and it’s an okay bit of horror. The premise is easy enough: a single mother and her two sons help take care of their grandmother who just happens to have mystical powers. This one’s not going to make anybody’s “Top 10″ list, but the acting is solid (and there are some great actors in the ensemble) and it’s good enough for a watch. (By the way, there’s a Twilight Zone episode called “Gramma” that does the same story in 45 minutes and it’s better).

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers:

halloween-curse

The first Halloween team, Debra Hill and John Carpenter, also wrote this one, so you can put any memories of Halloween XXVII, etc., out of your mind. It’s old home day in Haddonfield, Illinois: Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis, the psychiatrist who wants Michael Myers dead; Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode (well, actually her daughter), and even little Tommy Doyle, the kid Laurie was babysitting in the original, are back. Six years after Michael Myers’ last outing, he comes back to Haddonfield looking for his niece (that’d be Laurie’s daughter) who escaped from him (after she gave birth to his kid). So not only is Michael still a homicidal maniac, he’s into incest. If you’re a fan of the Halloween series, you’ll enjoy this. They should have stopped after this one.

A Haunting At Silver Falls:

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A few years ago, a guy was wrongfully convicted of murdering his two daughters. The daughters haunt the town where the crime took place. Sounds very simplistic, but it makes for a good ghost story and they’re hard to come by. A good, rock-bottom, ghost story is actually a rare thing. No devils, no hell hounds, no Ouija boards… just a couple of murdered girls who won’t lay down until justice is served. Give this one a try; you won’t be disappointed.

At The Devil’s Door:

at the devil

Okay, I’ll make it quick. A real estate agent meets a crazy girl whom she thinks is the runaway daughter of a couple whose house she’s selling. The movie is 10 or 12 little stories that don’t quite synch up. Your best bet is to move rather rapidly along. I watched this for you–life is hard.

Exeter:

exeter-2

The funny thing about Exeter is that it announces it’s “…from the director of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre…” but the truth is it’s from the director of the remakes of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—the two worst remakes in the history of horror films.

A group of teenagers, throwing a drug party in an abandoned insane asylum (always a good idea), decide they’ll fool around with the occult. When they’re possessed by evil spirits, they’re only slightly more amusing than they were when they were just drug-addled teenagers throwing a party in an abandoned insane asylum.

This movie isn’t scary, but it’s gory. If that’s your thing, you might want to give it a shot. Could it have been better? Well, yeah–but Ben Affleck is Batman. Hollywood’s lost its mind. Next up–Jesse Eisenberg as Muhammad Ali.

The Houses October Built:

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Pretty cool.

Tired of all the semi-haunted houses that crop up around Halloween, five friends take off in an RV in search of the real thing. Just when they’re about to give up, things start happening and they figure out the haunt has come to them.

It’s a “found footage” type of film and I think we’re all getting a little tired of them, but overall, this is a good ride. The acting is better than you’d expect for a “B” movie, the plot line is more original than most, and the scenes in all the haunted houses are a lot of fun.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil:

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A masterpiece. This movie was out for 5 years before I watched it because I thought it would be stupid. It was brilliant.

Tucker and Dale are just a couple of lovable West Virginia “good ole boys” who head out to their dilapidated vacation cabin to drink beer and go fishing. A group of hipster college kids run into them and just assume that Tucker and Dale are in-bred, murdering psychopaths.

It’s a horror film/comedy/cult classic that should be required viewing for anybody who’s ever watched The Evil Dead or Deliverance or Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland or Tremors or any of a hundred others. My idea of a good weekend would be to hang out with Tucker and Dale.

Haunter:

haunter

Hmmm.

I just watched it (for this column) and it was most cool. When she hits 16, Lisa finds out she’s stuck in time living the same day over and over again a’ la’ Groundhog Day. Pretty soon, she figures out that she, her parents, and her little brother are all dead and trapped in the day they were murdered. Lisa discovers that she can contact people—people who are also victims of the killer in the past and the future. She learns the killer’s name (Oscar–go figure) and sets out to find a way to stop him.

Is it really a horror movie? No… it’s more of a thriller where most of the characters are dead people; a ghost story with bizarre turns and twists. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended.

V/H/S:

VHS-Movie-Torrent

Another “found footage” movie that tosses too many slices of horror movies at you to come together in a package.

Somebody hired a group of morons to burglarize a deserted house in the country to find a rare VHS tape. What they find are a bunch of old television sets, a dead body, and some film clips that show gory and ghastly imagery. This film tries to be an anthology tied around a central story, but it doesn’t quite make it.

It’s definitely worth a look, but it’s no Frankenstein.

The Den:

the den

Interesting, but a little claustrophobic.

A girl studying the habits of webcam chat site users watches a horrific murder one night during her research. When she, her family, and her friends, are targeted by the murderer, she gets more involved in the webcam chat scene.

Most of this film takes place on computer monitors, cameras, and cellphones and although that’s annoying, it adds to the suspense.

Well worth a watch, The Den is another “found footage” film, but not as bad as most.

The Seasoning House:

seasoning

A deeply disturbing horror and revenge film—and highly recommended.

In the Balkans in 1996, the population of a small town is slaughtered by the militia. A young girl, Angel, escapes death, but is taken by the commander and put to work caring for the girls of The Seasoning House, a brothel of drugged and kidnapped young girls who are prostituted to the military. Angel isn’t quite pretty enough to work as a whore, so she finds ways to move between the walls and crawlspaces in the house to help the other girls–and in so doing, she sees more than she’s intended to see. When the men who murdered her family show up, her revenge begins.

Doesn’t sound like a horror movie, does it? Give it 15 minutes and get back to me on that.

Killer Mermaid:

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Two American girls go on vacation in the Mediterranean and discover the hideout of a killer mermaid.

I’m sorry… I really am… I tried to watch it. Got 30 minutes into it and my neck got sore from shaking my head. I was afraid if I screamed at the TV one more time, my wife would call “the people” and have me taken away.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare:

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I don’t like these films that try and blend the movie with reality. And I don’t like it when a cult figure like Wes Craven has to have his name stuck in front of the film’s title to get somebody to watch it. But…

On the 10th anniversary of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Heather Langenkamp (who played Nancy Thompson in the original and is now playing herself in this one) starts getting phone calls from Freddy Krueger. When her husband (yes—her real husband) is killed in a car accident and is found with slash marks on his face, Heather begins to suspect something. (Really?) She discovers that Wes Craven is writing another “Nightmare” movie and somehow they figure that Heather has to play Nancy one more time in order to defeat Freddy.

If this makes you want to grab your head and yell “Son of a bitch!” as loud as you can, I understand, but surprisingly enough, this is a good horror film. If you enjoyed A Nightmare On Elm Street, you’ve got to see this.

The Pact:

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I’m not going to lie to you—I watched this film about 2 years ago, I liked it, and I’ll be damned if I remember why.

It’s the story of a woman who comes home, with her daughter for the funeral of her mother, moves into her mother’s house, and discovers that her mother’s ghost is still hanging around. The mother wasn’t what you’d call a nice person, either. As the story progresses, the woman and her daughter vanish and it’s left up to her sister to discover the dark secrets in the family’s past.

I know it sounds hokey, but it was terrifying. It starts slowly—regular haunted house movie—but it turns into a really great, low-budget excursion.

The Human Centipede 3:

The-Human-Centipede-31-e1430275873871

If you read the previous column which feathered The Human Centipede 1, then you know it wasn’t the greatest of movies. Imagine what they’ve done to it with two sequels. And this one’s got poor Eric Roberts in it, too. I like that guy—Julia Roberts’ brother–he’s a good actor. I don’t know why he picks such idiotic parts in such idiotic movies.

In this steaming pile, Eric Roberts plays the Governor of Someplace. A prison warden is trying to gain the governor’s approval by coming up with the best punishment in the universe for prisoners. The best he can come up with is sewing inmates together ass-to-mouth.

I didn’t want to watch it, but I did—mostly on fast forward. Trust me–you won’t want to watch it, either.

Contracted:

Contracted-movie-poster

A girl contracts a sexually-transmitted disease… or that’s what she thinks she’s got. It ends up being something a lot worse, but whatever it is, it couldn’t be as bad as this truly, truly horrible movie.

The first clue that a movie’s going to be bad is if the Director and the Writer are the same person. I’ve figured this out over many years of reviewing movies. If Eric England is the director and Eric England is the writer, you’re in for something stupid. If Eric England or his wife or his kid is also in the movie, you’re in for something infinitely more stupid. I think Eric England’s entire family must have been in this one.

Just walk away.

Creep:

creep

A cameraman answers a Craigslist advertisement for a one-day job in an isolated mountain village and when he arrives, he discovers his boss is a little bit on the strange side.

This is another “found footage” film and as soon as that stops, I’ll be a lot happier with the horror genre, but this one is actually good. It’s full of tension, very well-paced, and sort of takes the whole “stalker” thing to another level.

I predict this will become a cult classic in a few years—watch it now so you can nod your head knowingly at parties and say, “I saw it years ago.”

The Rite:

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Always nice to end on a high note and they don’t get much higher than Anthony Hopkins.

Father Lucas (Hopkins) is an eminent Jesuit priest who has performed several exorcisms in the past. His newest student, Father Michael, has come to him in the hopes that the older, experienced priest can help him strengthen his faith. Father Lucas is a bit of an oddball, but when his exorcism of a 16 year old girl fails and the demon that was inside the girl finds another host, it’s up to Father Michael to fight and destroy the evil.

Sure, it’s hackneyed, but it’s not “just another exorcism movie.” It’s a good one.

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So there you have it – all 42 horror films streaming on Netflix in two concise, little bundles.

And here we are in spring with summer looming ahead; hours and hours of sunshine each day, hot weather, and Halloween is months away…

But if you happen to awaken in the dead of night, no birds singing, no kids outside playing, thunderstorm crashing and banging outside, and you’re feeling the need for a little scare, dive right in.

The water’s frigid, the lightning is flashing shadows against the mirror, and you might have forgotten to double-check the front door before you went to bed. What to do, what to do…

Don Gillette writes thrillers, horror, and dark literature. He is the author of three novels, a dozen volumes of poetry, and hundreds of short stories and newspaper articles. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.

The Best Tv Shows On Netflix

The Best Tv Shows On Netflix

Top 50 TV Series Streaming on Netflix

 

 

Greetings Netflix fans and new subscribers! Below is our complete list of the Top 50 Series currently streaming on Netflix. Be sure to give us a heads up down in the comments section if you’ve spotted any shows you think should be on the list or if there are any broken links.

Happy Streaming!

 

RELATED: Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Netflix New Releases: March 2016April 2016May 2016

Leaving Netflix: March 2016 - April 2016May 2016

Disagree with the list? Let us know  your top 50 favorite shows on Netflix down in the comments.

 

 

 50. Hemlock Grove

hemlock grove

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlZUsPcChgI[/embedyt]

[imdb id=”tt2309295″]

 

 

Horror1a

Horror1a

By Don Gillette

There are 42 horror movies streaming on Netflix at this writing. That’s not what you’d call overwhelming–unless you intend to write a review of each one of them which is exactly what I intend to do, starting with the first 21. I know–it’s a lot of movies–but I don’t intend to keep you here all day. Just a line or two to let you know what to expect and whether to give the film a try…


Oculus:

oculus

Pretty good and pretty creepy. Kaylie Russell is convinced that her brother, who was convicted of murder, was driven to the crime by a supernatural entity inside an antique mirror in their old house. When her brother is released from a mental institution, they return to the house (bad idea) to get to the truth. Lot of flashbacks, some great suspense, and some nice scares.

Dream House:

dreamhouse

Good acting saves this one. James Bond and Rachel Weisz move their family into a house where the former owner murdered his wife and daughter. Then they find themselves being stalked by a “mystery” visitor who might or might not be the former owner. The suspense is great, the story line is plausible, and Daniel Craig is solid.

Would You Rather?

wouldyourather

I would rather not. In this one, a rich dude gathers a group of strangers together and pits them against one another in sadistic games. It’s formulaic, poorly acted, and a waste of time.

Dark Skies:

darkskies

Couple of good scares in this combination horror/sci-fi flick. Starts slowly with a family experiencing some strange events at home and builds to a pretty good pace when they realize extra-terrestrials are after them.

The Babadook:

The Babadook

I didn’t like it; some people raved about it. A young widow’s son is afraid of a monster he claims hangs around their house. More psychological yawn than horror, but as I said some people loved it. When a movie is named for the monster in it, I want to see the monster. The Babadook never shows up.

Dead Silence:

dead silence

This was actually pretty good. In the 1940’s, a ventriloquist was accused of kidnapping a young boy. As punishment, the townspeople cut out her tongue and buried her with her dummies. Cut to the present and the guy who played Jason Stackhouse in True Blood shows up. He receives a puppet in the mail, his wife is murdered, and he sets out to solve the mystery. Very atmospheric, the 1940’s backstory was cool, and the acting was good.

The Lazarus Effect:

lazarus

You’d really like this to be good… but it’s not. A group of researchers learn how to bring back the dead but when they do, the dead aren’t who they were. It’s Flatliners, Pet Semetary, and a few dozen others rolled into one. Such a shame because the cast is first-rate.

The Taking Of Deborah Logan:

deborahlogan

Dynamite acting from Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay make this a keeper. Deborah Logan has Alzheimer’s and she’s also the subject of a documentary. During filming, it becomes obvious that something besides the disease is going on inside of her. Excellent scares, some jump-out-of-your seat moments, and well worth a look.

The Awakening:

awakening

Another keeper–a classic ghost story that takes place in an English boarding school shortly after World War 1. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart is called in to dispel the rumors of a ghost and she meets more than she bargained for. The suspense builds very slowly, but not so slowly that it doesn’t hold your attention–and the ending is terrific.

Housebound:

housebound

Yeah, it has some scares and suspense, but it’s a comedy. Kylie Bucknell is sent to live with her crazy mother after a run-in with the juvenile court. Her mother’s convinced the house is haunted and Kylie’s having a hard time deciding if her mother is right or if the old lady is making her crazy enough to believe it. A few laughs, a few scares. Overall, a waste of time.

Devil:

Devil-Movie-21

This really sounds like a stupid movie, but it was completely engrossing. Five strangers trapped in an elevator–and one of them is the devil. Kind of claustrophobic even with the brief “away” scenes of the police trying to determine who’s who in the elevator. Solid acting and a good plotline will keep you guessing.

The Woman In Black 2:

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A group of film makers, seeing that they made some easy cash on a movie called The Woman In Black, decide to see how many viewers they can sucker in to watch the same movie again with different actors.

Curse Of Chucky:

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A group of film makers, seeing that they made some easy cash on SIX movies about a red-headed doll, decide to see how many viewers they can sucker in to watch one more. No–actually, if you like Chucky, you’ll enjoy this sequel. I hate Chucky.

Truth Or Die:

truthordie

A bunch of kids go to a remote cabin in the woods to play Truth Or Dare at the invitation of a kid they humiliated playing the game a few years earlier. What could go wrong? It’s not bad, but it’s not The Exorcist. It tries a little too hard to be scary and is a bit over-the-top for my taste, but give it 15 minutes–you’ll know by then whether you’re going to like it or not.

The Ouija Experiment:

ouija

The most amazing thing about this film is that there’s actually a The Ouija Experiment 2 that’s even dumber than the original. In this one, kids playing with a Ouija board open up a portal to the spirit world (surprise, surprise) and have contact with a little girl who drowned years before. Just walk away.

Children Of The Corn:

childrencorn

This also became known as Stephen King’s Children Of The Corn when it was decided the movie was so bad the only way to get anybody into the theaters was to invoke the name of The Godfather Of Horror. I’m betting he wishes he had this little experiment to do over again. Seriously, it’s just ridiculous.

Last Shift:

lastshift

This is a pretty decent horror/ghost film. Officer Jessica Loren is waiting alone for a Hazardous Material team to pick up some bio-waste in the last hours before a police station closes its doors for good and moves into a new location. Rumors are the station is haunted by a cult leader who committed suicide there with two of his followers exactly one year ago and Jessica finds out the rumors are true. Good action and some serious scares.

The Chosen:

thechosen

I could walk out the front door of the house and within 15 minutes I’d have 10 people who could act better than the best actor in this piece of junk. It was so bad it made my eyes bleed. The worst “horror” movie in the past 10 years. It’s about a demon who steals children, but all you really need to know is that it’s just terrible.

Stonehearst Asylum:

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First-rate, old-style horror flick that takes place in an insane asylum. Newly graduated from Oxford, Dr. Edward Newgate arrives in Stonehearst and sees some “revolutionary” treatments he considers inhumane. Meanwhile, he falls for a patient (who wouldn’t? It’s Kate Beckinsale) and also begins learning the secrets of the institution. Can’t give away the rest, but this one is excellent.

The Others:

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Another first-rate, old-style horror flick with a great surprise ending. Nicole Kidman lives in a dark, old house with her two kids (both of whom are photosensitive) and she gradually becomes convinced the house is haunted. A really well-made film not to be missed. Nicole Kidman has always been a powerhouse actress and she doesn’t disappoint here–plus I’m hoping she and Keith will offer to buy our lunch next time we run into them at the Copper Kettle.

The Human Centipede:

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Disturbing, disgusting, and like a train wreck–hard to look away. This is about a mad scientist who kidnaps three unsuspecting victims and reassembles them into one creature by sewing their mouths to the other ones’ anus. I re-wrote that sentence six times, but there’s no other way to say it. Good movie? No. Bad movie? No. Unusual movie? Bingo.


That wasn’t too long, was it? And more than half of these films are well worth your time if you’re a fan of the genre. If you’re a huge fan, you might like them all (except The Chosen–only a lunatic would enjoy that one.)

Part Two will be online next Sunday. Meanwhile… kick back, crack a beer or open a bottle of wine, turn the lights off, and settle in for a few good scares.

Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.

WEST

WEST

By Don Gillette

Most people who claim they don’t like Westerns will watch a Western in a heartbeat if they happen to stumble onto one when they’re clicking the channels. They just won’t tell you about it. So okay—there are some people out there who don’t like Westerns because they don’t understand them. Pardon my sexism, but usually, they’re women.

Please don’t be offended, but this column is kind of slanted toward men. We (men) understand. Both horses and men are big, hairy, sweaty animals and if you ladies are inclined to ride one, we would prefer it be us. Again, this is a matter of choice. Catherine the Great of Russia reportedly had it both ways; she was the exception.

But real men love Westerns. Sometimes the only thing my sensible, left-wing, liberal self and my lunatic, blood-thirsty, right-wing friends can agree on is how much we love Westerns. It’s common ground. They might think Donald Trump is the savior of humanity while I think he should be killed with fire, but pop Wyatt Earp into the Bluray player and we’re the best of buddies.

Westerns were the most popular Hollywood genre from the early days of film right into the 1960’s—and their popularity since then has waxed and waned. We’ll go a few years without a single Western and then somebody will remake 3:10 to Yuma or True Grit and all of a sudden, they’re back in vogue.

The cowboys of the Old West are the American version of the Japanese Samurai warrior or King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table—they’re all bound by a code of ethics, honor, and chivalry. The “bad guys” are usually assholes, but every once in a while bad guys come along who are likeable and have their own moral code—they’re just trying to get by. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, for instance… two likeable clowns trying to earn a dollar. They rob from the rich and give to themselves, but they don’t go overboard with it.

There’s a lot to like about Westerns. Ranches, jails, saloons, prostitutes with hearts of gold, revenge, villains, heroes, honest lawmen, rugged individualists, scenery… and whiskey. “Leave the bottle.”

Netflix is a little light in the streaming Westerns department. I’ll take that up with them next time I pen one of my world-renowned complaint letters. But for right now, these are interesting…

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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This one happens to be one of my favorite Westerns. The Oscar-winning screenplay was written by William Goldman who also wrote one of my favorite books (Temple of Gold) and this movie is chock-full of memorable quotes. The plot is simple enough; Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) are two outlaws in the Old West who rob trains and banks. They spend the rest of their time trying to elude capture by a posse put together by the Union Pacific Railroad. When they eventually escape to Brazil, they decide to “go straight” and get jobs as payroll guards, but that doesn’t work out so they’re forced to return to their old ways. It’s exciting, hilarious, action-packed, and more fun that anyone would ever expect from a Western. If you haven’t seen it, see it; if you have seen it, see it again.

Unforgiven

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Multiple Academy Award-winning Unforgiven is a very dark Western. The American Film Institute considers it #4 in the Western genre and it’s on every “Top 100” list ever imagined. Aging outlaw/killer William Munny (Clint Eastwood) takes one last job with his old partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). The job is an Old West-style “contract killing” of a cowboy who disfigured a prostitute in the town of Big Whiskey. Meanwhile, Big Whiskey’s sheriff, Little Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman), has no intention of allowing any hired assassins in his town and he bans handguns of any sort within the town limits. When British-born gunfighter English Bob (Richard Harris) shows up, also seeking the reward, Little Bill beats him to a pulp. Later, William Munny, racked with fever, is sitting in the saloon when Little Bill spots his hidden pistol. Bill beats Munny savagely and kicks him out of town. Three days later, Munny and Logan carry out the contract—they kill the cowboy who sliced up the prostitute’s face. Logan decides he hasn’t the stomach for killing anymore and heads back home. When Munny learns that Logan was captured, tortured, and killed by Little Bill, he rides into town for a little taste of revenge. This Western is not for everybody—it deals with the ugliness of violence and what it does to those who perpetrate it, regardless of what side of the law they’re on. It’s frank, brutal, emotional, and it elicits strong reactions from anybody who sees it. Don’t miss it. This is one you can watch a dozen times.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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One of the best old-school Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance isn’t about the man who shot Liberty Valance at all. Ranse Stoddard (James Stewart) is traveling to Shinbone to open a law practice when his stagecoach is robbed by a gang of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Instead of standing meekly by, Stoddard berates Valance for stealing an heirloom from a widow. Valance beats Stoddard and leaves him on the trail to die, but he’s found by Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) who brings him back to town. The locals nurse him back to health and he eventually opens his law office, but Valance isn’t too keen on that—he wants no obstruction to his control of the town. Fearing for his safety, Stoddard gets a revolver and attempts to learn how to use it. Doniphon helps him learn to shoot and the two become reluctant friends. When Stoddard is nominated to the “Statehood Convention,” Valance freaks and the two face off in the street. Valance toys with Stoddard, first shooting a vase near his head, then shooting him in the arm. Stoddard drops his gun and Valance allows him to pick it up. Stoddard fires off a shot and Valance falls dead in the street. At the statehood convention, Stoddard’s opponent calls his behavior “un-statesmanlike” and Stoddard contemplates withdrawing from the race, but Doniphon calls him aside and confesses that he shot Liberty Valance from an alley, firing at the same time Stoddard did leading to the line, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is as complete a story as you’ll likely find on film. No one-paragraph wrap-up could ever delve into the depth of character and the personalities involved. At the risk of sounding preachy, I really do urge you to watch this one.

Hombre

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Paul Newman again… only Jew to ever star in six Westerns… and each one is a classic. In Hombre, Newman plays John Russell, a spurned passenger in a stagecoach filled with “respectable” people. Russell was raised by Native American Apaches but was later adopted by a white man in town. As an adult, he returned to the Indian reservation to live but when he inherits a hotel, he decides to trade it for a herd of cattle. This means he’s got to take a stagecoach to another city and on that ride, the stagecoach is attacked. Bandits fail to find the money they were after, but they leave the passengers in the middle of the wilderness with very little water. After the attack, Russell leads the passengers in search of the next town. Meanwhile, the bandits decide the money must be in the passengers’ possession and they head out in pursuit. Along the way, the true personalities and prejudices of all the passengers come out; the good, the evil, and everything in between. What we have in Hombre is a classic character study of individuals brought together by chance. This ensemble piece is one of the best.

The Missing

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Anytime I see Tommy Lee Jones, I find it really hard to believe he was Al Gore’s roommate at Harvard. Even more difficult to believe is that he actually went to Harvard because if there ever was a cowboy, it’s Tommy Lee Jones. I can’t imagine the U.S. Supreme Court stealing the presidency away from Tommy Lee Jones like they stole it away from Al Gore. Tommy Lee would have kicked their asses. In The Missing, Tommy Lee plays Samuel Jones, the estranged father of Magdelena Gilkeson (Cate Blanchett), a frontier medicine woman. When her daughter is kidnapped by an Apache witch doctor, she recruits her forgotten father to help her get the girl back. Samuel Jones isn’t really a cowboy, per se, but close enough. And The Missing isn’t really a Western, but close enough. What this Ron Howard film does is combine a Western with a Thriller with an Action movie with a Period Drama while throwing a little mysticism in for good measure. This film is historically accurate even down to the metaphysical aspects and the dialog, but what it’s got going for it is, by far, the gripping, taut, and tense story line. Definitely worth a watch.

Django Unchained

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I’m going to start off by stealing borrowing a one-sentence description of this movie: “With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.” Now, I’ve seen Django Unchained three times—maybe four—and the first thing that crossed my mind when I read that description was: “Who would want to watch this?” However, you can’t depend on this particular synopsis because it’s missing a few key words. Words like “Quentin” and “Tarantino,” for example. I’m not going to wax rhapsodic about Quentin Tarantino because he honestly is about half-nuts and his scripts, taken at face value, are absolutely ridiculous. But there’s something about the way this dude directs and casts his films that makes the ridiculous not only plausible, but completely believable. Graphic violence, blood-thirsty fights, great humor, non-stop action, the foulest of language, and — wait for it — Don Johnson playing the leader of a Ku Klux Klan patrol that can’t see where they’re going because the holes in their hoods aren’t large enough. You know, usually, I can pull off these descriptions and plot summaries fairly easily, but I honestly cannot describe Django Unchained except to ask you to give it 10 minutes. That’s all. Watch it for 10 minutes. If you don’t stay until the end, you’re probably as crazy as Quentin Tarantino.

Bandolero!

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Raquel Welch in 1968. That’s right, I said it and I’ll say it again in italics: Raquel Welch in 1968. Actually, Bandolero! is a rock solid Western that goes about telling its story in two directions. The first half is very funny and likeable despite its storyline: Dee Bishop (Dean Martin, who’s always good in a Western), a former Quantrill Raider, gets arrested while robbing a bank. The town sends for a professional hangman to hang Bishop and his gang, but Bishop’s brother, Mace Bishop (James Stewart, also always good in a Western) gets word of the hanging, mugs the hangman on the trail, and takes his place. Mace plays along with the town and at the last minute, breaks Dee and the rest of the gang out of jail. They rob the bank as Dee and the gang intended to do in the first place, and take off. This is when the movie turns from light-hearted to serious. The Bishops and their gang have not only robbed the bank, but kidnapped Maria Stone (Raquel Welch) so Sheriff July Johnson (George Kennedy) and his deputy Roscoe go after them and chase them into Mexico where the banditos have little use for Americans. This movie is two films in one; the engaging, happy-go-lucky, first part and the ominous, serious, second part. Granted, it isn’t the greatest Western ever filmed, but it’s entertaining and a good way to kill an evening. Writer Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove, named his sheriff July Johnson and his deputy, Roscoe. And if it’s good enough for Larry McMurtry, it’s good enough for me.

Gallowwalkers

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This film is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea; in fact, unless you’re a Wesley Snipes fan or a Blade fan or a Walking Dead fan, you might want to pass. I watched it because I’m a Wesley Snipes fan. I thought the Blade movies were good, so I gave this a try based solely on Mr. Snipes. Turns out that he not only disappointed the Internal Revenue Service, he also disappointed me. In brief, Aman (Snipes) is the son of a nun. Apparently, when this nun said “nun,” she didn’t mean “none” and for that reason, Aman is cursed. Why he was cursed and not the morally casual nun, we never discover. The curse is that whoever Aman shoots comes back from the dead, so eventually, he’s got an entire zombie army of former victims hunting him down. The only saving grace in this movie is Wesley Snipes—and as I said, the IRS snatched him halfway through filming. The zombie stuff and the blood-and-guts is fairly well done, but the story doesn’t make any sense and sometimes the dialog doesn’t seem to match up with what’s going on. In my defense, you’ll notice the title of this article is “Westerns To Watch On Netflix,” not “Best Westerns To Watch On Netflix.”

Urban Cowboy

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I’m kidding. Urban Cowboy is a Western like Taco Bell is a restaurant.

How many of my Top Ten Westerns are on Netflix? Two. But keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested in this genre. The really good ones crop up from time to time. Just search using “Westerns” as your criteria. By the way, my Top Ten are:

  1. The Searchers
  2. Tombstone
  3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  4. Lonesome Dove
  5. High Noon
  6. Unforgiven
  7. Red River
  8. The Wild Bunch
  9. Stagecoach
  10. The Shootist

You can trust me on Westerns; I spent 9 weeks at Fort Sam Houston, Texas in Combat Medic Training. Never saw a single horse, but the scorpions are the size of German Shepherds.

Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.

CULT

CULT

By Don Gillette

When it comes to cult films, don’t depend on Wikpedia. “A cult film is a film that has acquired a cult following.”

This is what I hate about the internet.

A cult film is really about the committed and rebellious appreciation a somewhat limited audience has for it. The topics are usually, but not always, strange; they usually have a ton of “back stories” about how they were made or the flaws of the director or stars; and they normally have a little nostalgia going for them. Nothing is “an instant cult hit,” especially a movie that has “instant cult hit” on its advertisements. Sometimes a cult film becomes a cult film just because it didn’t enjoy tremendous box office success right out of the chute—it needed a few years to be appreciated.

Netflix is loaded with cult films and some of the best cult classics are streaming now…

The Prophecy

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Christopher Walken is one weird dude. There are even some people out there who claim he doesn’t act—he just plays himself, but these people obviously never saw his Oscar-winning performance in The Deer Hunter. Oh, he can act alright. And in The Prophecy, he’ll scare you half to death playing the Archangel Gabriel. Gabriel, it seems, is furious because God has allowed humans (“talking monkeys”) into heaven, so he comes to earth in order to steal the most evil human soul that ever existed. If you like this one, The Prophecy 2 and The Prophecy 3 are also streaming on Netflix, so you can fill up a Walken Weekend.

From Dusk Till Dawn

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Director Robert Rodriguez sends two criminals (George Clooney and Quentin Tarentino) and their hostages (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Ernest Liu) into a night club that turns out to be populated by vampires. This movie is bloody, shocking, violent, disgusting, and great fun—sort of a hybrid of horror, bloodbath, and comedy. Tarentino wrote the screenplay, Salma Hayek plays a stripper who does a dance with a yellow boa constrictor around her neck, and Cheech Marin plays three different characters. That’s cult-film paradisio.

The Crow

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Dark and spooky, this action drama is about guitarist Eric Draven who’s resurrected by a crow a year after he and his girlfriend are murdered. The crow leads Draven (who’s dead—remember) through the land of the living and guides him to the killers where he takes them out one-by-one. It’s a subtle horror/love/revenge movie and it’s a Gothic masterpiece. The thing everybody knows about The Crow, even people who haven’t seen it, is that Brandon Lee died while filming it and it was finished with a stand-in and some CGI. A real tragedy of errors—the sequence of events is hair-raisingly bizarre and the odds of it happening are about the same as being struck by lightning and winning the Irish Sweepstakes on the same day. You can’t help but think of this as you’re watching and sadly, it makes the movie even more haunting.

Up In Smoke

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If you know Cheech and Chong, you’ll remember this one—it was their first; if you’ve never watched one of their movies, this is the best. The plot is ridiculous: Pedro and Man unwittingly drive a van made entirely of marijuana from Mexico to Los Angeles while the LAPD try to catch them. That’s it. The characters and the short side-stories are what makes this baby a cult classic and one of the funniest films to come out of the 1970’s. Stacy Keach’s hilarious “Sergeant Stedenko,” and Tom Skerritt’s short appearance as “Strawberry” (the only time you’ll see PTSD in a comedy) are highlights, but the whole thing is really one solid comedy sketch after another.

Kingpin

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By far, the stupidest movie plot ever imagined by anyone and also one of the funniest. Woody Harrelson plays Roy Munson, world’s greatest bowler, who goes up against Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray), world’s second greatest bowler. McCracken causes Roy to lose his bowling hand. His dreams are crushed, he gets a prosthetic hand, and becomes a traveling salesman. That’s where he meets Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid) an Amish guy who has all the talent to be the best bowler in the world. Roy, Ishmael, and McCracken square off at the World Bowling Championship. Have you heard anything more ridiculous in your life? Be forewarned, if you’re looking for highbrow comedy or intellectual comedy or Woody Allen comedy, you’re in the wrong place—but if you’re looking for lowbrow laugh after laugh, give this a try. Oh, and Bill Murray ad-libs most of his lines making this mandatory watching for any Bill Murray fan.

The Warriors

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Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so honest because I’d love to leave The Warriors off this list. Not because it’s bad—I’ve seen it a dozen times; but because it’s on everybody’s “cult” list. Walter Hill directed this street-gang classic which features 21 different gangs hunting down the Warriors for a crime they didn’t commit. All the Warriors want to do is get back to their home turf, but first they’ve got to cross the Bronx and Manhattan—no small task. You’ve got amazing fight sequences, adrenaline pumping music, dialog full of memorable one-liners, and some stand-out performances from some newcomers (look for James Remar—serial murderer Dexter’s father—as “Ajax). If you haven’t seen, you have to see it.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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This is the only movie Matthew Broderick’s ever been in that I can stand to watch, but I can watch this any time. In fact, he should have retired after he made this one because there’s no way he could ever have hoped to top it. It’s a formulaic high-school comedy with Ferris Bueller (classic wise-ass), his anal-retentive, constantly nervous friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), and Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) skipping school for the day. It’s all about not taking life too seriously and Ferris has that down pat, but it’s also full of situational humor, the typical moron high school principal, and some of the best hyperbolic high school dialog ever (When the teacher calls Ferris’ name at roll, Simone raises her hand: “Um, he’s sick. My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”) You should see this movie just so you’ll know Matthew Broderick’s career had a high point. By the way, do you think Matthew Broderick comes home some nights when his wife is sad and says, “Hey, Sarah Jessica, why the long face?”

Léon: The Professional

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True story: I rented this when it was released and I watched it six times over one weekend. I had never heard of Jean Reno or Natalie Portman, and almost nobody else had, either. The storyline is fairly simple: Mathilda (Portman) is a 12-year old girl whose family was killed by her father’s drug kingpin bosses—she’s not home when the murders take place, but the killers know she’s out there somewhere. She takes refuge upstairs, in the apartment of a professional hitman with a heart. He can’t put her out on the street because she’d be killed and when she asks him to teach her to be an assassin, he very reluctantly agrees. Her motive is to take revenge on the corrupt DEA agent who murdered her family. The DEA agent is played to psychotic perfection by Gary Oldman. (Tip: if you Google “Films of Gary Oldman,” never leave out the “r” in his first name.) The relationship between Léon and Mathilda will draw you in and the great acting will keep you in. This one is not to be missed.

Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.

binge1

By Don Gillette

Should you really be binge-watching TV shows or series on Netflix? Absolutely—it’s the only way to fly. Don’t you have anything better to do with your life right now? Nope—house is clean, bars are closed. How are your eyes? Fine—and there are some drops in the medicine cabinet.

You’re good to go; you pass the test.

Now, if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Nurse Jackie, or Orange Is The New Black, I’m afraid I can’t help you. But if you’re looking to settle back and discover some new shows you might have missed or visit some long forgotten, old friends, please read on…

 

The Twilight Zone

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The original, the masterpiece. First four seasons. The show won an Emmy for Best Writing, it featured some of the biggest stars of the day along with some not-so-big newcomers at the time (Robert Redford, George Takei, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Burt Reynolds to name just a few), and its creator, head writer, and narrator, Rod Serling, was about the coolest, spookiest dude to ever grace early television. If you’ve never watched this series because you thought it might be old-school or irrelevant, you’re in for a real surprise. From Where Is Everybody? to Walking Distance to The Lonely, this is quality television all the way.

Better Call Saul

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I know you’ve watched some or all of Breaking Bad. I know you have–everybody has. And I know you love Saul Goodman, ace attorney for chemist-turned-meth dealer Walter White. Well, Better Call Saul is the history of how attorney Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman and it’s what you’d expect, but a lot funnier. Comedian Bob Odenkirk reprises his role for this series (Season One is on Netflix) as well as a few other characters from Breaking Bad (specifically ultra-bad Mike Ehmentraut). If you couldn’t get enough of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is your ticket back into the game.

Longmire

Longmire Season 2

If you’re a fan of best-selling author Craig Johnson, this series will be right up your alley. It’s based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels and stars Robert Taylor as the wise-cracking sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. He’s had a rough time of it lately, but he pulls himself together and with the help of his friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), the crime-fighting and mystery-solving business is in full swing. This modern day western is full of fast action, dry humor, and interesting story lines. It’s lean, it’s mean, it’s not too far between, and the scenery is spectacular. This is a show that’ll make you believe there’s better stuff coming out of television than there is coming out of the big studio productions.

Crossing Lines

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Three seasons of Crossing Lines are available for binge-watching and we’re talking a big name, high energy thriller here. Donald Sutherland, William Fichtner, Gabriella Pession, and Tom Wlaschiha work for a special law enforcement unit that investigates serial crimes that cross European borders. Think Criminal Minds in Europe with better scripts written for grown-ups.

Cooked

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This 4-show series is based on the latest book by Michael Pollan (who also stars in the show). He walks viewers through the 4 main “ingredients” necessary for cooking: Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. He also jumps right in and learns to cook with various ingredients and with a variety of instructors. This isn’t a cooking show; it’s more of a nature special that just happens to focus on things we eat. In short, it’s educational but interesting—two things that don’t often fit together as well as they should. If you’re interested in what you stuff into your mouth, you’ll like this one.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

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About 40 years ago, ABC put out a couple of “made for TV’ movies about Karl Kolchak, a reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago. Kolchak had a real nose for news, but his news stories were of the vampire, werewolf, zombie, and ghost type. Nobody believed him, his editor thought he was insane, and yet the spooks just kept coming. Realizing they had a hit on their hands, the network gave Kolchak a weekly series that took him from Jack the Ripper through Aztec human sacrifices and everything in between. Darren McGavin was great as Karl Kolchak—funny, persuasive, and every bit as scared of his stories’ subjects as the victims. Okay, it’s a little dated, but still great fun in a campy sort of way.

Hacking The System

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This show should be required watching for people like me who obsess about bad air travel, crappy hotels, getting ripped off when I buy a mattress, and how to watch Netflix without paying Comcast $200 a month. The host, Brian Brushwood, is pretty funny–and some of his tips are actually quite helpful. Some of them are ridiculous, too, but even the ridiculous ones are amusing. I don’t, for example, ever expect to need to escape from the trunk of a moving car… but I did enjoy learning about the techniques criminals use to steal a car and how to make my car less of a target. As if anybody would want it.

The Killing

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If there’s one thing American television does well, it’s rip-off European television ideas and keep them around for much longer. This show is based on a Danish TV series, Forbrydelsen (not a clue how you’d pronounce that without hurting yourself) so if subtitles aren’t your thing I’d recommend you stick with the US version. It takes place in Seattle (which is damn near as depressing as Denmark) and you should be prepared for the fact that it’s slow. I mean sloooooow. What that does is make it realistic as hell—real cops have few “Eureka!” moments where everything falls together and the criminal confesses on a whim. The entire first season focuses on a single murder case, the main players are “real people” in that we get to know them, warts and all, and within two episodes you’ll either care enough about what’s going on to be hooked or you’ll walk. Either way, it’s well worth your time.

Don Gillette is a novelist from Nashville, Tennessee. His latest book, Old Leather, is a collection of short fiction and is available world-wide at booksellers and on-line retailers.

Chefs-Table

Chefs-Table

 

Until I was 17, I thought the words “cooking” and “defrosting” were interchangeable. We ate “TV dinners” so much that we each actually had one of these things that looked like a tiny ironing board you unfolded and put in front of the couch at dinner time. They were made to hold a TV dinner, silverware, and a glass of milk. Or in Mom and Dad’s case, a Manhattan.

When I entered the Army at 18, everyone in basic training had to pull a day of what they called “K.P.” It stood for “Kitchen Police” even though we were neither cooks nor law enforcement officers. What we did was the grunt work in the mess hall; washing dishes, mopping floors, and peeling potatoes. It was there I discovered, to my amazement, that mashed potatoes could be made from actual, real potatoes instead of adding water to flakes from a box.

In years past, kids learned to cook at their mother’s knee… depending on how tall she was. But starting with my generation, both parents usually had jobs. When they got home, they wanted the kids fed, but weren’t especially keen on teaching them how to whip up a Crème Brûlée.

So, like a lot of my generation, I learned to cook watching television. Mainly, PBS. I had the legendary Julia Child, the entertaining Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet), the hilarious Cajun Justin Wilson, Chef Paul Prudhomme, the Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr, and Chef René (the Black Hat Chef) who was easily the meanest, most ill-tempered prick ever to host a TV show.

Type “Cooking” in the Netflix search bar and you’re going to see screen after screen of shows that have something to do with cooking. Marginally. But only five of them will actually teach you anything about doing it yourself.

 

  1. Good Eats Collection. Alton Brown, the host/creator of Good Eats, is actually a chef—he graduated from the New England Culinary Institute. Good Eats is a combination of old-fashioned “This is how to cook this” TV with a primer on kitchen equipment and an educational treatise on the underlying processes of cooking. It’s also pretty funny and Brown is an amusing guy. Ever since the Food Network stopped airing cooking shows and went into the “Game Shows for Gluttons” business, Netflix and Youtube are about your only sources for an education in the kitchen. Good Eats is the best of the lot.
  2. The Mind of a Chef. This Emmy- and James Beard Award-winning series isn’t all cooking, but hardly any series is anymore. What the producers of this PBS show do is combine travel, history, humor, and cooking by following one chef per season. With titles like “Pig,” “Noodle,” and “Rotten,” how could you not learn something from watching this show? It’s narrated by Anthony Bourdain, everyone’s favorite smart-ass, and is entirely enjoyable even if you never try to cook anything you see.
  3. America’s Test Kitchen. As basic as a cooking show is going to get. The host, Cook’s Illustrated editor-in-chief Christopher Kimball, features three or four actual recipes centered around a central idea; comfort foods, pasta, Asian cuisine, etc. Where Good Eats take the science of cooking and turns it into great slapstick, America’s Test Kitchen actually has a “Science Desk” segment to dissect what’s going on behind the scenes. The show also features an equipment review where they introduce kitchen gadgets and give you a run-down on whether or not the thing is useful. This is a more high-brow approach to cooking than most of the shows you’ll find, but not so much that it detracts from the entertainment value. Try it—who knows?
  4. Throwdown! With Bobby Flay. I hated Bobby Flay for a long time. Something about that wise-ass smirk on his face and the fact that he reminds me of a leprechaun kept me away from any of his shows. Finally, I gave in and tried Throwdown! Well… he is a wise-ass, but not in a mean-spirited way—and he’s also a good cook. This show sounds like it would be a game show, but it’s actually a very good cooking lesson. What they do is challenge Flay to compete against another chef who specializes in one cuisine or specialty. The guest chefs aren’t told ahead of time that Flay will be showing up to challenge them, so when he does show up, the contest begins. Now, Flay is the first to admit that he’s more at home with Tex-Mex than he is baking cupcakes, but the guy is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, so it’s not like he’s never flambéed a tart. Still, watching he and his two sous-chefs attempt to “beat” the weekly guest chef they’re going up against is a real education in cooking. His record is 32 wins, 1 tie, and 68 losses. I still think he looks like a leprechaun, but now I like him.
  5. Back to Basics. Ina Garten, host of Back to Basics, does the best “how to cook” cooking show left on television. No “look at me,” no “I’m a celebrity,” and no Gordon Ramsay hissy fits. Just plain, everyday, good, simple cooking. What she does very well is make the ordinary extraordinary with just a few, very small and uncomplicated tips and techniques. If you’re having a friend or two drop by for lunch, you want to cook like Ina Garten tells you to cook. Ever had a roasted pear with bleu cheese? Me, neither—but when Ina showed me how easy it was and how delicious it looked, pears and bleu cheese went on the grocery list. This is the kind of cooking show I like.

Honorable mentions:

These aren’t really cooking shows as in “How To Cook,” but they’re worth a watch.

1. Chef’s Table is a Netflix-produced series that picks a famous chef and follows them both in their life and in their restaurant. It’s actually not as much a “cooking instruction” series as it is a “look at this” type series. Yes, you can learn a lot about cooking watching this show, but none of these chefs are going to look at the camera and say, “One cup of flour, a tablespoon of salt, and a pinch of yeast…” They don’t want to teach you, they want you to be in awe.

2. The Great British Baking Show. A game show with contestants, but one of the very few game shows that will actually teach you something. You won’t get any recipes—but really, who needs them when you’ve got the internet. I like to bake, so I like this show. I don’t like to fish, so I don’t like fishing shows. If you don’t like to bake, you won’t like this show. I think that’s called circular logic or something. Probably not.

I suppose it’s too much to hope for, but I wish Netflix would find some of the really old cooking shows and add them to their mix. I miss watching The Frugal Gourmet set off the fire alarm in the studio and I miss watching Julia Child body-slam a whole chicken onto a cutting board. But in the meantime, you can still find plenty of material to get you into the kitchen.

 Don Gillette is a horror/thriller novelist who can also knock out a Boeuf Bourguignon. His latest book, Old Leather, a collection of short fiction, is available at booksellers and on-line retailers world-wide.

Netflixbbc

 

Image result for bbc

Are you up for some Earl Grey? Would you care for some clotted cream and a scone instead of that Cinnabon? Do you sometimes find yourself apologizing when you haven’t even done anything wrong? Or apologizing for not apologizing? (“Sorry, but I’m not going to apologize.”) Would you like to trade up that Sam Adams for a Johnny Walker Black?

Well, if you’re feeling the urge to cross the pond, or even return to your Colonial roots, the cheapest way is to tune into the BBC on Netflix (that’s “British Broadcasting Corporation” for you anti-Anglophiles). The BBC is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organization and the largest broadcaster in the world. It’s also the place where U.S. entertainment producers turn to for ideas to spin-off into American-made television series and that’s nothing new. All In The Family was based on a BBC show; Hell’s Kitchen, House of Cards, The Office, Three’s Company, American Idol, Shameless, Queer As Folk, Veep, Undercover Boss–all “borrowed” from our former landlord.

And for some reason, even though most of their programs are honestly good, the BBC seems to do an even better job at police and detective shows. Not a lot of shoot-em-ups, car crashes, or exploding city blocks but some really interesting characters and plot lines and some really first-rate actors.

Keep in mind that most of us are either going to have to listen carefully OR turn on the subtitles. Especially for the crime dramas which tend to have at least one or two characters with that whole “Cockney accent” thing going on. When I hear that, I can’t help but think, “…and people from Boston think somebody from Nashville talks funny?”

Sherlock

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Sherlock by now. Sherlock is the modern version of the tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his sidekick Dr. Watson. In this version, the characters are in 21st Century London, the crimes are a bit more lurid, and the action is fast-paced, suspenseful, and witty. Benedict Cumberpatch, owner of one of the greatest “British-sounding” names in history, is immediately likeable and dislikeable as Holmes and Martin Freeman (the little guy from those really awful Hobbit movies) is probably the best incarnation of Dr. Watson to ever hit the stage or screen. I can’t imagine you haven’t given this a try, but if you haven’t, please do. And for those who are fans already, check out Unlocking Sherlock, a look behind the scenes with the actors and writers–also streaming on Netflix.

Luther

Imagine Sherlock Holmes with Mel Gibson’s temper and a female Hannibal Lecter to help him while he solves ever murder ever committed by Dexter. With a British accent. There you go–Luther. I’ve been watching Idris Elba, who plays Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, in movies and TV shows since the mid 1990’s and I didn’t even know his name until I watched Luther. Yet for some reason, he was immediately recognizable which tells me he’s made this character his own and you can see from the first 15 minutes of the first episode that this guy is a powerhouse. Ruth Wilson plays Alice Morgan, a brilliant psychopath and murderer (sound familiar?) Luther is unable to convict of any crime due to lack of evidence–yet she gradually becomes his confidant, his companion, and a permanent thorn in his side. Just watch episode one–that’s all it’ll take. You’ll be hooked.

The House  Of Cards

Before Frank and Claire Underwood began taking their revenge on Washington politics and politicians, Francis Urquhart was plotting and scheming his way to the job of Prime Minister in the Houses of Parliament. Although the politics are a bit unfamiliar to non-Brits, if you can’t get enough of Francis Underwood you really should give Francis Urquhart a try. The story is the same–Francis expected to be rewarded for his political ties and support, he got screwed, and he pulls out all the stops to get even and get his just deserts. You don’t have to dedicate your life to this series, either: four one-hour episodes and you’re in and out. And if everyone spoke with the diction of Francis Urquhart (Sir Ian Richardson), it would be a better world.

The Office

I’d watch the BBC version of The Office just to hear Ricky Gervais laugh, but what this mockumentary really does is make the most of embarrassing situations and capitalize on every quirk in every co-worker you’ve ever had. If there’s one thing Ricky Gervais is good at, it’s making comedy out of something that should really make your skin crawl and that’s exactly what his character, David Brent, does when he’s aping for the “BBC documentary crew” that’s filming the goings-on in the offices of the Wernam-Hogg paper merchants in Slough, Great Britian. If you work in an office… if you’ve ever worked in an office… you need to see this show. And then find yourself a new line of work.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz may very well be the best documentary ever made. It’s not a re-creation, it’s not interviews with historical figures, it’s not location shots and computerized graphics… it’s all of these things–cut together brilliantly to give the viewer a true in-depth look at one of the most horrible incidents in modern civilization. Using every imaginable theatrical method and advancement to re-tell the story of the “Final Solution” from its inception to its culmination in the Death Camp at Auschwitz, this documentary should be mandatory viewing, especially for anyone planning to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

There you have it. Five of the Best of the BBC. After you’ve checked these out, bought yourself a houndstooth cap, given up on the dentist, and started driving on the wrong side of the road, you might also try: W1A, The Detectives, Fleming, Ripper Street, Copper, River, and Wallander. Or just go to the Netflix search page, type in BBC, click on anything, and… Bob’s your uncle.

Don Gillette’s latest book, Old Leather, is available at booksellers and on-line retailers everywhere.