Filling in for Mr. Ward’s excellent weekly Netflix updates, this “Netflix Watch” searches the company’s instant streaming database for notable titles worth watching. The Netflix service is notorious for not always offering the newest and latest releases, but it does have an admirably extensive collection of small, independent or long-forgotten gems. Some are great, some are good, and some are pretty bad. The point being, this post will put forward some mini-reviews of films that have gotten lost in Netflix’s database, and will make suggestions for things to watch.
I’m a very firm believer that a documentary should inform (using physical evidence and facts), offend and entertain in equal measure. To fail in any one of those elements, the purpose of the genre is lost, which can skew the movie into the often-dangerous territory of propaganda. Directed by Larry Charles, ‘Religulous’ does a great job keeping the three aspects in check and balancing them well as it explores various schools of thought within the three main religions of the world: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The documentary doesn’t dig very deeply or seek an overarching philosophical answer to the big question of which religion is right. With host Bill Maher at the helm, it makes up the difference with a great deal of humor and some fascinating information. The goal is to spark an intelligent conversation about faith, but the closest he comes to that is ironically with an actor dressed as Jesus Christ working at a Biblically-themed amusement park. Perhaps Mr. Maher should try being a bit more polite with some of the people he interviews.
The wackiest and most nonsensical of conspiracy theories abound in this surprisingly well-made micro-production from first-time filmmaker Matthew Avant. The intelligent sci-fi mystery is set in the future, or more precisely in December 2012, which obviously hints at the popular doomsday prophecy supposedly predicted in the Mayan calendar. Blending many of the wild-eyed but ultimately preposterous superstitions about the apocalypse and humanity’s final demise, the movie interestingly melds the documentary style with the currently-popular “found-footage” genre, which makes for a uniquely entertaining experience with bits that feels scarily realistic.
With a daily countdown to some mysterious cataclysmic event, the plot follows a small band of filmmakers trying to uncover the truth behind a strange phone call heard on live radio. Their search leads them to an eerie religious cult that’s a cross between Mormonism and Scientology. They fear not only for their own lives, but for all of humanity in general. Using some startlingly flawless CGI work and creative camera work, the movie is definitely one to give Hollywood’s current slew of mostly shoddy genre flicks a run for their money. ‘Lunopolis‘ is true to the promise and ingenuity of hard-nosed sci-fi. It’s both challenging and entertaining.