With the temperature dropping in many cities across the country, I think it's a good time to find a trustworthy blanket, brew the coffee, and start streaming on Netflix.
If you are a film-addict who likes to hang out on the television series playground from time to time, I have a few delightful offerings for you to soak in as the hot toddy goes down the throat this evening. If you just like a good old-fashioned throwback movie that makes you want to drive fast, I have some of that too. Let's get into it before the night escapes us.
Written and directed with precise skill and determination by Jeremy Rush, you wouldn't dare guess this was his first movie. The plot resembles a lean piece of muscle, centering around a getaway driver (Frank Grillo) hustling around the urban hood of Boston trying to figure out who betrayed him on a job while angling to protect his family from danger. There's a delicacy to the thrills that makes the action sequences more visceral, and Rush's camera tricks and choices make every shot seem original. Anchoring the 83-minute film is Grillo, who has the presence and authority to make you believe in and care for this particular Wheelman. The relationship between Grillo and Caitlin Carmichael, who plays Grillo's daughter, carries the thriller to another level, adding a layer of drama to the plot while making Wheelman more relatable.
4) Seven Seconds
If there was ever a television series for the times, it is creator Veena Sud's ten episode crime procedural about the death of an African American teenager bringing the tension in the community to a boiling point. When a young white detective accidentally strikes the kid with his car on a snowy afternoon in Chicago, several lives are forever changed with their choices and actions...wait for it...in the following seven seconds. Sud — along with a writing team anchored by Rhett Rossi, Evangeline Ordaz, and Francesca Sloane — layers the drama with several subplots, including the domino effect that this incident can have on an entire police department and the family at home. It helps to have juicy characters delivered by great performers like Regina King's Latrice Butler, Michael Mosley's Rinaldi, Russell Hornsby's Isaiah Butler, and David Lyons' Detective DiAngelo.
The provocative timeliness of the plot should hit home, but it is the honest handling of the storylines and character arcs that lend the series a special brand of power. The end doesn't feel like a cinematic wallop, more like an unfortunate continuation of the times we live in.
3) Parts Unknown (Seasons 7-10)
I'll be honest with you and admit watching this series won't be easy. Anthony Bourdain's hit CNN series about the legendary wordsmith and cook traveling the globe and learning about the different cultures of food will make you miss the late punk rock artist of authentic grace even more. It's like listening to Chris Cornell's music or hearing a Tom Petty song come on the radio. You revel in its beauty yet wish it was still around to give more. There are 32 episodes from Seasons 7-10, with the current season airing on CNN every weekend. The great thing about once in a lifetime artists is the ability to rediscover their work on services like Netflix. The sampling of episodes here will make you want to go back and catch more of Bourdain's magic. He broke down walls with his insight and desire to learn about people that the camera often avoids. That's how a legacy lives on.
Cheers to Robia Rashad for creating a series that deals with autism in an honest and caring fashion while delivering plenty of laughs. That's not an easy balance to accomplish, but in two seasons of this effective comedy/drama series, she finds it. The goods begin and end with Keir Gilchrist, who imbues the central character, Sam Gardner, with depth and is convincing as a teenager dealing with a condition that is hindering his high school bliss. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Rapaport give something extra to the roles of Sam's parents, while Amy Okuda's therapist delivers heartbreaking laughs mixed with sincerity as Sam's therapist. It has the look and feel of a network sitcom, but Atpical hooks you with its dedication to the disorder and its many effects while keeping things light with genuine humor.
Inspired by Bourdain, actor and fighting enthusiast Frank Grillo takes viewers on a journey to the unknown lands of warriors with different backgrounds yet similar troubles. Together with director Padraic McKinley, Grillo persuades the viewer to understand the reason kids, teenagers, and adults climb into a ring and fight. The five episodes cover stops in Mexico, Thailand, Myanmar, Senegal, and Israel.
Whether learning to fire head strikes in Myanmar or finding himself on the short end of a training Krav Maga training exercise in Israel, Grillo always has a smile on his face. It's that smile that reveals the true intent of the series: discovering the love, passion, and survival instincts that hardship can bring on, yet fail to defeat.
The handheld camera never stops moving you with its unbiased imagery, showing us the heart of darkness in fighters yet taking us into their world built by love and understanding. This WarParty joint was made for a reason, and you can see in each episode. Go watch it and learn something. Just expect to be joining a gym the following morning.
There are thousands of other titles to watch, but these are the five I can point to with ease and say you must watch right now. If it's too cold outside, fire up the chili and break out a reliable stout, and get into these five titles on Netflix.