Arts and Entertainment

Race Against Time: A Guide to Netflix

For those of you who don’t know, Netflix Instant Streaming is a monthly subscription service that allows you to instantly watch any movie or television show that is available. With services such as this, there are a number of shiny little gems to be found; some are hidden, and some have already been well-established in the mainstream. For those that are still lost in the shuffle, I’m here to help point you in the right direction.  As a small disclosure, it’s important to remember that these recommendations are based on my personal opinion.

The titled “Race Against Time TV Action and Adventure” category was first suggested to me based on my watching “Jericho” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” “Jericho” is a show that takes place in a town in Kansas by the same name. The main protagonist, Jake Green, stops by his hometown for what was supposed to be a short trip, but gets stuck there when a nuclear bomb goes off in the distance. The town has to try and band together against a series of hardships following this incident. The show is comprised of mostly likeable characters that I found myself rooting for and contains a number of scenes, particularly towards the end of season one and throughout season two, that really hit emotional high notes. Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after only 29 episodes, so it is not a massive time investment.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” however, is seven seasons and a massive time investment, especially if you include the equally good spin-off series, “Angel.” “Buffy” is about a superhuman teenager, Buffy Summers, and her friends battling evil in a California town that happens to stand over one of the biggest sources of evil in the world, a “Hellmouth.” “Angel” is about one of the previously recurring “Buffy” characters, a vampire who is cursed with a conscience named Angel, trying to fight the good fight in the city of Los Angeles. These shows are some of Joss Whedon’s earlier successes, so if you are a fan of his work and you have somehow not already watched either of these shows, you will probably find the same enjoyment. Both of these shows have managed to keep me invested with a series of interesting characters, laughing with their wit, and bringing some to tears. Just a warning: the early episodes of “Buffy” are pretty heavily rooted in the 1990s. I believe one character can be quoted using the word “technopagan.”

Alongside “Buffy” in the “TV Shows with a Strong, Independent Female Lead” category is the Netflix Original Series “Orange is the New Black.” This show follows Piper Chapman as she goes to a women’s prison due to her one-time involvement smuggling money for a drug ring 10 years prior. The show is incredibly raunchy, so if that type of humor is your thing, this is just the show for you. In addition to being rather raunchy, this show can be quite the emotional rollercoaster, so brace yourself if you do decide to give it a watch.

For those of you who are more into animation than live-action, this next recommendation is for “Archer,” the misadventures of ISIS super (incompetent) spy, Sterling Archer, and his coworkers as they try not to make a mess of every job that is sent their way. The first three seasons of the show are on Netflix and the episodes are less than a half-hour long, so you can probably blaze through the episodes in a few days, with some commitment.

If you still need your cartoon fix, check out the “Anime” section. For those of you who do not know, anime is just a fancy name for Japanese cartoons. Your average fan will usually

recommend some of the classics, like “Trigun,” a story about a peace-loving gunslinger who is trying to protect as many people as possible from some of the deadliest men on the desert planet of Gunsmoke. There is also “Fullmetal Alchemist” (2003) and “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (2011). The main premise of both shows is the same: that two alchemists, Edward and Alphonse Elric try to resurrect their mother and, in the process, Ed loses an arm and a leg and Al is sealed inside a suit of armor after losing his entire body. In order to correct their mistake, they seek out the Philosopher’s Stone so that they can fix their bodies. As the show progresses, they uncover a deeper conspiracy.

Netflix actually has a few big blockbusters from as recent as the past couple years. Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” which most of you have probably seen, can be rewatched time and time again. You can also find “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” the fourth movie in the series. Both movies have wit, tense action, and Jeremy Renner.

If you find yourself looking through the “Horror” section, you might want to give “Cabin in the Woods” a look. Another movie by our friend Joss Whedon, “Cabin in the Woods” is a satire of horror movies. The main premise behind it is that an organization convinces a group of willing college students to go to a cabin in the woods that is completely off the grid, unknowingly subjecting themselves to a nightmare that quickly becomes a reality.

My last two recommendations are also of the horror genre, except they happen to be foreign films as well. The original Thai movie, “Shutter,” follows a couple who get haunted by a ghost after hitting a woman with their car. If you’re a fan of the “Hunger Games” books or movie, then I’d recommend checking out the Japanese “Battle Royale,” which follows the same formula of “group of young people killing each other until there is a survivor.” It’s also one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite films and it has a very similar style in its violence, so if you like his movies, you will want to give this movie a shot.

By Richard Colom

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