Ben’s Picks for Netflix

Ben Atwater

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Let’s face it: the average college student does not have funds nor motivation to schlep out to their local theater, pay 12 bucks for a ticket, a small fortune on mediocre food, and devote an entire night to one viewing experience.

Russell Crowe in a scene from Noah (AP photo)

Russell Crowe in a scene from Noah (AP photo)

While many of us “filmies” are out there, the most common movie watching experience is getting some C-Store provisions, and settling in to binge watch our Netflix cues.

So, examining the product offerings from an empirical view, below are five titles currently on Netflix at the date of publication of this article.

While the only true way to see a film and get the full experience is in a dark room projected onto a giant screen, these films still deserve a viewing regardless of format.

Nominated for Best Picture in 2011, Hugo is a film about film. Set in early 1900s Paris, Hugo is about an orphan, Hugo Cabret, who lives in a train station maintaining the building’s clocks, having learned the trade from his deceased uncle.

Hugo lives for knowledge, loving to tinker with trinkets and parts he finds. Through a series of events, Hugo comes to work for George Melies, a disgraced film maker who has exiled himself from an exuberant career in film to operate a toy shop.

Melies, a real life director, is portrayed by Ben Kingsley. Hugo and Melies’ adopted daughter take leisure in finding out Melies’ hidden past.

Told from the perspective, Hugo works on many levels.

As a period piece, it is a lovely storybook version of industrial revolution Paris.

As a character piece, the various storeowners in the train station create colorful and realistic individuals with which one can identify with.

From a historical viewpoint, no other film has delved so deeply into the origins of French cinema as Hugo, with a solid fifteen minutes of real footage of Melies’ works. Excellent for all ages, Hugo is sure to entertain.

Also nominated for best picture, Nebraska is a very interesting take on the American suburban experience.

Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, a senile old man who has received a money mailer claiming he has won the lottery.

To any rational person this would be fire kindling; to Woody, a man who has lost his sense, purpose, and direction, the spam mail provides something to live for, which he has not had in decades.

While his family objects to him going, as any rational family would, his son played by Will Forte accompanies him, trying to cope with a midlife crisis himself.

The two return to Woody’s hometown, where they still have extended family. There they learn how easy notions of family can collapse when not attended to for several years.

Shot in black and white in 2013, Nebraska’s cinematography of the vast landscapes reinforces the themes of how hard it is to let go of something when there is nothing else in the vast landscape of the human experience.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
The sequel to one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, J.J.Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek was followed by this sequel.

While not nearly as good as its predecessor, Into Darkness is a great space adventure film that puts the crew on the Enterprise into some big budget space battles that never cease to entertain.

One thing that 2009 Star Trek did best was the casting, and with the same cast in Into Darkness, the sense of fun and chemistry is irresistible.

Kirk is now captain of the Enterprise and has his whole crew on board, from Scotty to Sulu and of course Spock.

When a genetically modified Star Fleet soldier goes rogue and sleeps for hundreds of years, his reawakening causes a string of events that end in perilous outcomes for Earth.

Much more like the original TV show in nature than its predecessor, Into Darkness is a solid installment in a series that has been brought soaring back to life.

Detailing the traditional Noah’s ark story, Noah adds in the human elements necessary to make the viewer care about these cliché bible characters, something Exodus: Gods and Kings was lacking. Noah, played by Russell Crowe, is written as a flawed man who himself does not know what the right course of action is to take.

Putting the story of the great flood into an apocalyptic doomsday context strengthens the human investment, for when people are drowning, the horror is felt.

With an excellent segment detailing the creation myth, Noah is a modern biblical epic that harkens back to the days of The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur.

While epic, Crowe keeps the story grounded. Also featuring excellent visual effects, Noah is absolutely worth a watch.

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Ben’s Picks for Netflix