The Keepers: More Brave Filmmaking from Netflix

I used to look down on true crime stories as they seemed sensationalistic and lacking of any real respect for the victims and their families. They seemed like nothing more than tasteless entertainment. That changed for me with the Netflix produced Making a Murderer which was created by filmmakers who seemed genuinely concerned with injustice in the American legal system. The public responded by binge watching the series and since its release it has arguably had a real impact on the much maligned system. After the success of Making a Murderer it was hard to imagine that Netflix would wait very long before delving back into the realm of true crime. I can say quite honestly that The Keepers has all the well-meaning and quality of Making a Murderer (in fact, maybe a little bit more of both).

We’re in a really interesting time for documentary filmmakers. For a genre that has prided itself on making unbiased/non-intrusive/non-manipulative storytelling, we are certainly seeing a lot of filmic devices being used by documentarians these days. The Keepers uses music, camera work, and the opinion of those behind the camera to great emotional effect for the viewer. These techniques used to be viewed as cheating in the documentary world, but I think viewers are better amateur psychologists these days, and are better able to understand our own biases and influences. With our phones we are also all amateur moviemakers and have used some of these techniques ourselves. And with so much of our entertainment being one blurry mess of fiction and reality, I think it’s only fair that documentarians be allowed to reach out of their usual bag of tools and embrace techniques normally reserved by Hollywood for theatrical fare.

The Keepers also has a cast of incredible characters, some will feel very real to the viewer, while others (Bud Roemer comes to mind) will feel like they were yanked out of of a Hollywood classic. The story is deftly presented by the filmmakers and unfolds more interestingly than most contemporary fictional works.

Finally, I feel like I learned more about life, death, and everything in between from The Keepers than I have from recent fictional dramas. When dealing with real people, and real injustice, it’s hard not to moved, to learn, to change – and that’s what filmmaking is supposed to do for us. Sure, entertainment is great, but I want to come out of a viewing experience a different person, not completely changed, just privy to a different perspective on life than my own. Judging by the initial reception of The Keepers it seems like others would agree with me. Maybe that’s why Netflix is keeping their viewing numbers so close to their chest. Maybe we’re looking for a different type of entertainment and they’ve plugged into it while the competition stays with the tried and true formula.

It feels like the search for justice has gone mainstream. What a welcome development.

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The Netflix Log-In Vol.1

Every once in a while we here at the Entertainment Maven can forget that the movie going experience isn’t just in theatres or attending one of the many festivals here in the city of Toronto, but it is quite often an experience that takes place in the comfort of our home.  So while our staff will check in from time to time with DVD & Blu-Ray reviews it is important to remember that there are multiple ways to soak up some cinematic goodness at home.  Every once in a while, I’ll be checking in with a look at some of the new and more notable Film and TV titles to appear on the streaming Netflix service that anyone who is a subscriber can watch at simply the click of a mouse or a remote.  Settle in for the first installment of the ‘Netflix Log-In’ as we take a look at five recent additions to Netflix here at Entertainment Maven.

First up, after a successful run at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, The Skin I Live In is now available on demand.  A truly stunning film by director Pedro Almodovar that follows a brilliant plastic surgeon, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Bandaras), as he seeks to overcome the grief of his late wife’s disfigurement in a fiery car crash by inventing skin that’s impervious to injury. But his experiments on a living woman hasten his descent into madness.  This was a thrilling psychological ride that will keep you transfixed to the screen as the story unfolds and is more than worth a look if you haven’t already caught up with this wonder film.

The Way is an intense family drama starring Martin Sheen and directed by Emilio Estevez. As Tom (Sheen) flies to France to claim the remains of his son who died while hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in the Pyrenees, he decides to complete the 500 mile trek to Spain to honor his son and ends up discovering himself in the process.  This was an understated and well done drama that was written and directed by Estevez and had a solid ensemble cast including Deborah Kara Unger and James Nesbitt, a surprisingly uplifting and charming little film.

From the TV side of things, the short lived yet stellar FlashForwardhas its complete 22 episode run now available for streaming.  This show tracks a mysterious event that causes nearly everyone to experience a simultaneous 137-second blackout and premonitions about their lives six months into the future. It’s up to a team of FBI agents to find out if it will happen again and why.  Lead by Joseph Fiennes this was an incredibly well written and acted TV series that was hoping to fill the void left by Lost but it never really caught on, and I highly recommend that you get hooked now.

The indie sci-fi hit Another Earth takes place after a strange Earth-like planet is discovered. Astrophysics student Rhoda (Brit Marling) accidentally slams her car into the vehicle of John, killing his family. In time, Rhoda and John begin an unlikely romance, but Rhoda begins to wonder about the other planet and struggles with the consequences of her action.  A stunning drama that introduces us to up and coming talent Brit Marling. It’s an emotional and intellectual powerhouse making for some truly fantastic storytelling. It didn’t last long in theatres but the more people who watch the more of a shelf life this fantastic film will get.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the surprises of last year’s summer blockbuster season.  A reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, this is a prequel set in modern-day San Francisco, where scientists are conducting genetic research on apes. However, when the evolved primates develop advanced intelligence and revolt against being used as lab rats things get more than a little intense. This was a surprisingly effective thriller that came out of left field, and if you missed this on the big screen, it is certainly a fun action romp more than worth the hit against your data cap.

Just a small cross-section of the films that are available on the instant streaming service Netflix, visit Netflix for more info about the service as well as the thousands of titles that they have access to on demand.

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