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Jack Black stars in The Polka King. Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Name a Netflix movie off of the top of your head. I’ll wait. It’s hard right? While series like Stranger Things and Making a Murderer have become household names, trying to think of a memorable Netflix original movie is like trying to name one of the non-Beyonce members of Destiny’s Child.

This is a real shame considering that a lot of Netflix original films are very weird, enjoyable, and genuinely half decent films that are often better than they have any damn right to be. There’s a good amount of variety between most of the films, and you get this sense that Netflix were a lot more willing to give the  people behind them more creative freedom than their big budget counterparts.

In order to best describe this, I want you to picture the world of cinema as the european continent. All of the well known, big budget blockbusters and oscar contenders are like the equally well known western european countries like England and France, in that they’re cream of the crop, tried and true, and beloved by all. Netflix movies dwell a bit more to the north east, and are more akin to your Estonia’s and your Latvia’s; feisty little guys with rougher, smellier exteriors that hide hearts of gold.

So now that this introduction has gone well beyond the 200 word mark, let’s actually discuss some of the Netflix original films that I saw within the past few weeks-ish. Also, i’m not going to talk about Bright because I haven’t seen it and it looks stupid.

 

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      Game of Mint. Photo courtesy of Netflix.com

A couple of weeks ago while I was looking for stuff to watch, I happened to see the guy who played Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones in on one of the movie posters. I thought it was a weird episode of Game of Thrones and watched it, even though Jaime was wearing green shirt, and it wasn’t called Game of Thrones.

It was actually a film called Small Crimes, and was directed by E.L. Katz. The film focuses on a disgraced cop (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau(The Jaime Lannister guy)) who is released from prison six year prison sentence only to end up dealing with the same mess that got him in jail.

Out of the three i’m going to cover, this was probably the only one that was the most consistent from beginning to end.

“Wow, what a meaningless buzzword that was.”

What I mean by that is that this film delivers a genuinely strong, complex, and darkly comic experience in its nice and even 90 minute flat run-time. It’s a dirty neo noir dark comedy film that checks every single box a dirty neo noir dark comedy film needs to check. While it doesn’t excel all that much, it does deliver, thanks to some solid performances from Gary Cole, Robert Forster, and Netflix regular and yoda impersonator Jackie Weaver.

It sits in the upper echelons of that weird middle ground between mediocre films and masterpieces, and sadly might not be remembered because of that. It’s a shame, because again I can’t stress enough how much of a solid product the film is.

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The real Jan Lewan. Photo courtesy of Scranton Times-Trinune

The other two films on my very long and well thought out list are The Polka King and A Futile and Stupid Gesture. I’m going to be talking about both of them in tandem because they’re both biographic comedy films done in a similar style,  and because I’m lazy.

The Polka King tells the story of Jan Lewan, played by Jack Black, a polish immigrant and polka singer whose financial crimes land him in trouble with the law. Yes,this is the actual plot of the movie. On the other side, A Futile and Stupid Gesture focuses on the career of Douglas Kenney, played by Will Forte who along with Henry Beard, played by Domhnall Gleeson, founded National Lampoon magazine, and also helped to write Animal House and Caddyshack.

Both of these films are incredibly weird, but still funny, and I highly recommend both of them. If you have to sophie’s choice it however, I go with A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Although The Polka King is half decent, it’s only because of how fascinating the rise and fall of Jan Lewan is. Without it, the film would just 90 minutes of Jack Black wearing a wig and doing a weird accent.

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Will Forte and a groovier General Hux. Photo courtesy of Slashfilm.com

Gesture on the other hand not only has an interesting story, but tells it in a few unique ways that I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say that it gets very meta, and uses the audience’s ignorance on the subject matter to its advantage. If you’re a cro-magnon shill who likes old unfunny comedy like me, then they you’ll get a kick out of the constant references to films like Airplane! and Saturday Night Live. The film also has a bunch of young comedians playing old comedians, which is always fun.

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This is Chevy Chase. Photo courtesy of  Collider.com

I do realize that this list doesn’t really do the whole collection justice, but it should give you an idea of what to expect. While not mentioned in the article, I also thought Mindhorn and the Siege of Jadotville were both half decent. The rest is up to you, happy hunting!

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