Netflix keeps cranking out quality shows like “Ozark” and “The Defenders.” That isn’t all the streaming giant does lately.
The service procures indie films for our streaming consideration. This fall alone expect a number of original titles including two Stephen King adaptations (“Gerald’s Game” and “Zak Hilditch 1922”).
Like its series content, not all Netflix film originals are created equal. Some are borderline excellent. Others aren’t worth the streaming time. This handy guide can help differentiate between the two.
“Beasts of No Nation”
This compelling 2015 film hoped to secure some serious Oscar consideration. That would have been a coup for the streaming service, which at the time was just dipping its toe in the movie game. That awards season buzz never materialized. A year later, Amazon got that Oscar love courtesy of “Manchester by the Sea.”
That doesn’t mean “Beasts” isn’t worth your time. It’s a harrowing tale of child soldiers in Africa, the kind that skews too close to reality for comfort. Idris Elba is astounding — what else is new — as the leader of one child brigade. The film needed some trimming, but it’s an arresting look at a culture we rarely see on the news.
“The Fundamentals of Caring”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a film sticking to cinematic formula if it fires on all cylinders. Paul Rudd stars as a neophyte caregiver tasked with caring for a disabled teen (Craig Roberts). The two fight, and fight until they bond during an eventful road trip.
No movie cliche is left untouched here, but poignant performances and strong humor make “Caring” a memorable film.
“I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore”
“Togetherness” alum Melanie Lynskey stars as a single woman fed up with our coarse culture. So when her house is burglarized she decides to fight back. She teams with an oddball neighbor (Elijah Wood) to find the thieves and get her stuff back.
What follows is unpredictable, darkly comic and at times totally unhinged. It all holds together, thanks in part to Lynskey’s quiet dignity in the face of disaster after disaster.
TWO MOVIES TO AVOID
“What Happened to Monday”
This new Netflix offering earns points for originality. The tale, set in the not too distant future, finds the government adopting a “one child” procreation rule to fight overpopulation.
A grandfather (Willem Dafoe) skirts the law by training his late daughter’s septuplets to go out in public as the same person one day each week. Their names? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can guess their schedule rather easily.
The film brims with progressive scare topics, from genetically modified food to climate change. It’s still a frisky setup before the silliness crashes the party. Star Noomi Rapace (playing all seven sisters) can’t secure the goofy tone the story demands.
Here’s another Netflix original with a strong liberal bent. That isn’t why the film is a dud, though.
Tilda Swinton runs a company that created a new animal it says will provide food for millions. One of the first animals of its kind connects with a young Korean girl (Ahn Seo-hyun) who won’t let the creature, dubbed Okja, be turned into someone’s dinner.
The film clumsily attacks the meat industry and more, but it stuffs too many genres into one ungainly package. It’s alternately gross, satirical, comedic and dark. What’s the worst part? Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the worst performance of his career as a TV personality enmeshed in the creature’s escape plan.