If you're fortunate enough to have a Netflix subscription and a Netflix-ready-device, then you are likely aware of Instant Watch. Instant Watch is an application that permits viewers to stream thousands of movies and television shows through their X-Box 360, PS3, Wii, or PC, and watch directly on their television. Those of us who make use of this feature understand that it is not only the best thing since sliced bread, but that it is, in fact, in close contention with sexual intercourse as the greatest thing in all of existence.
I've encountered a bit of a problem, as have many, with regard to this feature, however. Though this is clearly the complaint of the spoiled, once you absorb all of the quality films and television, it becomes rather difficult to find engaging entertainment. B-Movies and straight-to-DVD titles abound at a baffling rate. There are very few notable modern movies that are both good and popular. You'll have a hard time finding something of the caliber of Inception or Kick-Ass, for example, but no problem finding a Bounty Hunter or Grownups.
Having devoured hours upon hours of films over the past three years as a result of this beautiful application, and watched several entire television series, I'm left scouring for good, engaging entertainment and sometimes it's hard to find. I even forced myself to watch three seasons of Weeds despite completely disdaining the show and all of its characters (I give it credit where it is due, but it is such a mean, vicious show). There are a litany of classic and 'important' foreign films I know I should watch, but honestly I'm somewhat tired of watching French people be sad...and French. Every once in a while I like to randomly put something on without reading a description, or give something a try despite the bad title or bad dvd cover.
I'm going to recommend a few things for those who have encountered a similar problem, a few slightly more obscure suggestions that were pleasant surprises.
1) 3rd Rock From The Sun - I never watched this series when it was on the air, but I was always aware of it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for a while, was simply that kid from 3rd Rock to me. It always seemed like a bad sitcom from afar, lame and lowly. My impression couldn't have been more incorrect. Not only is 3rd Rock legitimately funny, it is, I believe, one of the most groundbreaking and original sitcoms I've ever seen. Unlike How I Met Your Mother or Two & A Half Men, the characters on this show are honest, created by intelligent actors. It's not a sitcom equivalent of a corporate boy-band regurgitating old formulas for the sake of cash (which describes the entirety of CBS's lineup). It's honest and occasionally daring. Each actor truly inhabits their character to deliver something that, if not always funny, is always interesting and entertaining. John Lithgow's child-like love of Jane Curtain is one of the most heartfelt and engaging television romances I have ever witnessed. There is rarely a "serious" moment on 3rd Rock (in fact I can only think of two) but these moments are truly moving and original. It is also, without a doubt, the most consistent television show I have ever seen. There were only a few episodes, during the entire 6 season run, that I thought: that wasn't that great of an episode. But I never hated one moment, which is not something I can say for The X-Files, Lost, The Simpsons, or even Seinfeld. Over the course of two weeks I grew to truly love the Solomons and it pained me to leave them. Check this one out and stick with it.
2) Chloe - I started watching this movie simply because the description promised some nudity. I wound up being treated to a psychosexual drama that not only provides the kind of lovely sensuality you might crave whilst alone in the wee hours, but also provides some of the most intelligible and honest observations about marriage I've seen in a long time. I highly recommend watching this movie for anyone who's considering matrimony as an option. Though the production value could be greater and the psychology of Julianne Moore's character could have been further explored and the girl-on-girl sex scene could have been handled much more tastefully (the movie gradually builds toward it in a logical way and yet the way it is shot and presented to the audience is so 'typical sex scene' that it feels dishonest and purely sensationalistic. If Kubrik made this movie, it would be amazing). Regardless, it's worth it for Julianne Moore's remarkable performance and one scene toward the end between her and Neeson. Good movie.
3) Billy Elliot - This movie received a good deal of attention, as I remember, but I've never had the inclination to watch it. Definitely check it out. It's slow at first but it is one of the most emotionally moving films I've seen in a long time. The last forty minutes are spectacular and one emotional sucker punch after the next (I hate the fact that I just wrote 'sucker punch' but I cannot think of anything else. I was just shocked by how good and moving the film became). You really grow to care about this very realistic family and care deeply about Billy's dream. And it makes ballet seem cool, which is no easy task. The last sequence of shots is everything a film climax should be.
4) The Phoenix Lights - Watch this! Not only are UFOs clearly a real phenomena, but aliens and/or inter-dimensional beings (which may or may not be one and the same) are amongst us. This documentary, while very slow and repative in the beginning, is worth watching for anyone who has ever gazed at the stars in wonder. A sci-fi, UFO, X-Files, or supernatural enthusiast should know about the wondrous Phoenix Lights. After watching this, and listening to the witnesses describing their sense of euphoria as they looked up into this lights, as their lives were awakened by them, I felt something within me shiver in recognition. It just seemed right, like it made sense, and it made me believe that something truly magnificent will happen in my life time. Mark my words friends, we are not alone. And, within the next fifty years, we will be given a massive sign, a clear indication of this truth from another realm we currently cannot perceive.
5) Dan Akroyd: Unplugged on UFOs - Not nearly as good as The Phoenix Lights but worth a watch. I always despise how UFO documentaries are shot in a cheap manner meant to make us "afraid" or to make it seem spooky. I also hate how footage of UFOs is never shown in its entirety, and we are only shown a snippet in these broadcasts thereby making them less credible. While the atmosphere of this interview is obnoxious, the content is very interesting. And it's fun to watch the very cool Akroyd discuss his supernatural experiences and his beliefs in a very serious manner.
6) The Merry Gentleman - Being that some of my earliest memories are of Batman (I got my first action figure when I was three), my earliest memories are also of the great Michael Keaton (if you haven't ever seen The Dreamteam, check it out. Hilarious 80's movie). I've always thought Keaton was an excellent actor and a cool guy, and he proves with his directorial debut, The Merry Gentleman, that he can direct as well. This is a quiet, humble movie that doesn't try too hard to do anything but tell its story. An excellent first outing for the true Dark Knight.
7) Parks and Recreation & Archer & Dexter - I highly recommend these three series. If you're stale on The Office then you may pre-judge Parks and Rec, which is a shame because it is vastly superior. Parks and Rec is the only truly positive, entirely upbeat and uplifting show. It is basically devoid of cynicism, which is necessary and refreshing in today's world. Genuine and endearing, the show offers a cast of entirely likable characters. I almost always dislike one particular character in a show but such is surprisingly not the case in Parks and Rec. Switching gears drastically is dear demented Dexter. Michael C. Hall, in the four seasons I've seen, has delivered one of the finest performances in the history of the art. Enduring the show's obnoxious third-tier characters and lame subplots designed to keep actors working, is entirely worth it for the psychosis and evolution of this oh-so-interesting character. Now for my very simple and honest endorsement of Archer: Archer is the funniest television show I have ever seen.
8) A Complete History of My Sexual Failures - this isn't for everybody and be prepared for some unsightly male nudity. But, I found myself laughing hysterically while watching this movie/documentary. At times hilarious, other times sad and touching, this worth checking out, especially for anyone who hasn't ever felt like a perfect human being and occasionally laments their own existence.
9) For Your Consideration & Best In Show - Both are hilarious and in keeping with the tradition of This is Spinal Tap, which is also on Netflix and must be seen.
10) The Quantum Activist - If you have any interest in quantum physics, spirituality, or if you ever find yourself asking questions like "Why am I here?" "What the fuck is going on?" "What the fuck am I?" "What happens after I die?" "What is conciousness?" "Why can I not experience someone else's conciousness?" "Why do bad things happen?" "Why do good things happen?" "What?" "Who?" "Where?" "Why?" then you may find this interesting. It's just a collection of interviews and lectures, which I enjoy because it's not the least bit condescending. You are not bombarded with cartoons and visual tricks as in What The Bleep Do We Know. For the ideas and final message, this is worth absorbing.
So there are a few suggestions for things to check out on your queue. I hope you enjoy and please let me know if there's anything you think is worth checking out as well.