It doesn't take much to excite me at this point of the winter. It's cold, dreary and desolate at the Jersey shore and I wear pajamas and my "suicide robe" (as I affectionately call it) entirely too much. Teeth are brushed only if they're lucky. And one day last week, I actually watched dust settle. I swear.
BUT Netflix has been quite enjoyable. I don't have cable television. My TV is my computer now. And thanks to all the great shows and movies available, I can be entertained by something other than taking out the trash.
The following list contains shows that can all be streamed CURRENTLY. No DVD needed!
1. Wire in the Blood
Wire in the Blood is one of the finest criminal investigations dramas I've seen (and trust me, I watch a lot of them). Psychologist Dr. Tony Hill (played by the amazing Robson Green) is teamed up with a tough female detective to track down serial killers. (After watching this series, you'll think that the UK is just teeming with them, when in actuality, they are a rarity.)
The acting is what really makes this show standout. Robson Green's character truly immerses himself in the mind of each serial killer, so we really get a deep sense of their inner workings. Each show is more like a mini well-crafted movie. (Apparently this lead to the program's demise; they consistently went over budget.)
(Beware: this show is not for the meek at heart; there is seriously disturbing content in some episodes.)
2. The Guardian
My boyfriend Simon Baker. Shh...he doesn't know yet!
I never heard about this show, nor had I seen Simon Baker in The Mentalist (which, after viewing recently, isn't even in the same league as The Guardian). But after one episode, I was hooked. It's a smart premise, ripe with possibility: a cocky, coke-addicted corporate lawyer is busted on a drug charge. His punishment: serve 1500 hours as a child advocate at a legal aid service.
Nick Fallin becomes incrementally more human and vulnerable with each touching case. I'm not sure how he didn't win an award for his performance. His portrayal is extremely subtle but resonant. And Dabney Coleman, as his father, is wonderful as always.
The stand-out supporting actor in the series is Raphael Sbarge, Nick's good-natured associate. His portrayal of a man deeply struggling with his sexuality is poignant and complex. Wendy Moniz as Nick's love interest is damn cute and likable.
Directed by David Schwimmer of Friends fame, I did not expect much from this movie. But it's smooth, taut and genuinely spooky. It follows a teenage girl's seduction by a middle-aged Internet predator and the affects it has on her family after she's assaulted by him.
The teenage girl (played by Liana Liberato) is spot on; you couldn't ask for a more well-crafted performance of a girl her age. And Clive Owen and Catherine Keener as the parents wrestling with the aftermath are both in top form.
David Schwimmer...who would have thunk, right?
4. The Guilty
The Brits just do television and film a bit better. It's true, admit it. Sure their production value often lags behind ours (why does everything they do look it's shot in the 80's?), but they make up for it with superb nuanced acting, better comedic abilities, and a certain "regularness" to their characters (meaning they don't look like supermodels so are therefore more relatable.)
I won't say much about this two-part TV show because it would be too easy to give aspects of it away. In short, three wildly different people's lives collide in a rather catastrophic way. Very worth the watch.
5. Mystery Science Theater 3000
I'm guessing most of us have watched this "guilty pleasure" show in the past, where three critics mercilessly rip apart B-movies of yore. I find it the perfect recipe if you're sick and in bed or a low-key party where weed is involved. It's just the right amount of mindless entertainment.
I was going to suggest Mitchell, one of my personal favorites, but you have to order the DVD for that one. Manos: the Hands of Fate is in the process of being remastered, so you might to check out that eternal crowd pleaser.
And here's a best of list I found that's pretty on point. Make sure you check out the list - not all MST3K episodes are created equal.
(I generally fast forward through the opening and the show hosts comedic bits in between; they're just not that funny.)
(Mitchell! Forward to 5:15, past the unfunny.)
6. Law & Order - The Whole Lot of Them
I used to be preferential to only early Law & Order (the original) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. But the truth is, they are all good in their own right (though I confess, I never have seen or plan on seeing the court room drama one).
I also used to avidly dislike Law & Order: Criminal Intent because I have such a love/hate issue with Vincent D'onofrio. But guess what? At this point of the year, I love him again. He's really an amazing actor; he's just annoying sometimes.
But Law & Order SVU is professionalism to the nth degree. A well-oiled machine. Dick Wolf and and his gang just know how to put a TV show together, formulaic as it may be. Can't stop watching the damn shows. It's the Pringles of television.
7. Goodbye Again
I'm not sure how I stumbled across this movie, but thoroughly enjoyed it. Interestingly, it's not very well-reviewed and I'm not sure why. Anthony Perkins is so energetic and endearing in his portrayal (almost a shame he's so inextricably connected in our minds with Psycho).
And I'll tell you a secret: I never understood why Ingrid Bergman is considered a good actress. She always felt a bit...flat to me. But in this movie, I got it. She's very understated in her approach, which I mistook.
In short, Anthony Perkin's character, in his 20's, falls hard for Bergman's character, in her 40's and unhappily involved. Bergman begins to have feelings for him, which she's conflicted about.
Here's a 5-minute clip that gives you a good idea of Perkin's abilities:
8. Charmed (The Shannen Doherty years)
Laugh if you must, but I'm a big Charmed fan. I don't know why. Why does one like cupcakes or skinny menthol cigarettes?
Do I have to explain the plot? Okay, it's about three witches who have high-level supernatural abilities. They team up to fight crime, evil, blah, blah, blah.
As you may have noted, I suggest the early years only. Once Prue dies, the show goes to pot. Alyssa Milano wears ridiculous outfits where you're forced to look at her well-trained abs for a half hour. And Rose McGowan just does not have the cajones that Doherty had. (Doherty played a witch for a very good reason...and you can guess what that is.)
9. Behaving Badly
Suggested to me by Open Salon's mumbletypeg after writing my last piece about proudly releasing your inner bitch, this mini-series is fun and unusual.
Judi Dench plays a woman who has hit a certain limit in her life and begins to act out in "strange" ways. I don't want to give away much more than that, but her portrayal is contained yet daring. She weaves so much class into her bitchiness. My bitch is much more sophisticated after watching her bitch.
Production value is lacking a bit, but again, it's streaming and available; I don't care as much if I'm not in a theater or ordering a DVD.
10: I Know Where I'm Going
Damnit...so angry! This isn't available for streaming anymore. But this was definitely one of my favorite finds so I just had to add it. This is an adorable, magical little movie filmed entirely in Scotland.
It follows headstrong Joan Webster (actress Wendy Hiller) who knows exactly what she wants in life, until she's stranded in a rugged Scottish village by the sea. It's there she begins to re-evaluate her decisions.
Okay, so you'll have to order this one then. There are bonus features on it apparently. And you can tell me all about them. Just loved this slightly surreal, special film.
Also want to tip my virtual hat to Monsieur Chariot, who writes amazing and entertaining reviews for Open Salon and inspired me to try my hand at it.
OPEN SALON MEMBERS CHIME IN:
A Place of Execution
Sherlock- BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch (suggested several times)
The Secret Parrots of Telegraph Hill (on DVD)
Goodbye Solo (on DVD)
House of Cards
Thirty-two Short PIeces about Glenn Gould (suggested several times)
Kagemusha, by Akira Kurosawa. Great samurai movie.
Ridicule. A marvelous French movie, both hilarious and profound.
The Cove. A great documentary about the whale slaughter in Taiji, Japan. Given the difficulty of filming, this is a kind of "Mission Impossible Meets National Geographic."
The Journey of August King. Very moving film about a man who risks everything in order to help another person.
Monsters. A very interesting and different kind of monster/sci-fi movie.
Downfall. Movie about Hitler's last 12 days as seen through the experience of his secretary.
Precious. A pregnant and abused teenage girl works to better her life.
The Third Man
The Burning Plane
Witness for the Prosecution
Hannah Takes the Stairs
Down to the Bone
Busting Down the Door (great surf movie on Hulu)
Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Jack Frost
The High Cost of Living
Place of Execution
Queen: Making of a Night at the Opera (LOVED IT!)
Let the Right One In
Macho - an indie about a doomed love affair
The Mighty Boosh
The Royle Family