Hidden Netflix Gems: ‘Bronson’

It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a new weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be available for streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday. 

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Bronson” (2008)

“My name’s Charles Bronson, and all my life I’ve wanted to be famous.” That’s the opening line of Nicholas Winding Refn’s fictionalized biopic “Bronson,” starring Tom Hardy as the titular character, a man who the press often refers to as the “most violent prisoner in Britain.” You may be familiar with Winding Refn’s best known work, 2011′s “Drive,” starring Ryan Gosling, and recognize Hardy as the guy who played identity thief Eames in “Inception” and most recently appeared as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” While those two pictures might be better films, I don’t think Hardy as ever put in a better performance than he did in “Bronson.”

Charles Bronson is not as well known stateside as he is across the pond. In the UK, the man is something of a national celebrity, both famous and infamous for spending the majority of his adult life in solitary confinement (28 of his 34 years in prison). Bronson was first incarcerated in 1974, at age 22, after being handed a seven-year sentence for armed robbery (of just  £26.18) from a suburban English post office. That seven years quickly became 14 as a result of his starting various fights and hostage situations involving guards and fellow prisoners. Bronson was released in 1988, but spent just 69 days on the outside (during which he began a “career” as a bare-knuckle boxer) before being arrested again. He’s been in prison ever since and his antics haven’t ceased.

Part of Hardy’s preparation for the role came from phone conversations with the man himself. In interviews discussing these interactions, you can see what makes the performance so special. In this clip, Hardy re-enacts a conversation he had with Bronson regarding a recent break-up. It’s one man sitting on a couch, but Hardy’s impression is so good it’s almost as if the camera is cutting back and forth between the actor and his subject (see the full interview here).

The film, which has been certified fresh and sits at 77 percent on the Tomatometer, is a clear homage to “A Clockwork Orange” (for reasons beyond the plethora of ultraviolence). “Bronson” begins with and includes many scenes of Hardy speaking into the camera and addressing the audience directly. The move allows the film to break the fourth wall, but also includes its own in-universe explanation: Bronson is performing a one-man play, narrating his life to a theater audience (sometimes while dressed in clown make-up). Alternatively (and more likely), he’s just imagining that’s the case, because in his mind, Charles Bronson is the most famous, best-loved man in the universe. The film is a biopic, but it’s highly fictionalized. It’s less about telling Bronson’s life story as it happened and more a character study. When the film’s events break from reality, it can be explained away by the fact that we’re getting Bronson’s version of the story. There’s no mendacious play at objectivity. Rather, we’re allowed to understand and perceive Bronson’s reality, for however brief a time, and thus try to figure out if Charles Bronson is really a crazy person or just far more sane than the rest of us. Either way, the answer might surprise you, and then being surprised might surprise you.

As mentioned, the thing that really separates this film from the pack is Hardy’s performance. He perfectly captures the comedic delirium that is being Charles Bronson. Frankly, I’m glad I saw “The Dark Knight Rises” first, because Tom Hardy and Charles Bronson were one and the same in my mind for a few days after watching this movie. I’m not sure how seriously I could have taken Bane after seeing Bronson/Hardy strip down and command a kidnapped guard to rub him down with grease, all the while yelling “Put on my armor! Everywhere, get it everywhere! Put some on my ass. Not in my ass ya faggot!” as the guard whimpers. To me and you it sounds like insanity, and it is, but for the 92 minutes “Bronson” is running, it’s his world, and we’re all just living in it.

 Check out the trailer below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Hidden Netflix Gems: ‘Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie’

It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a new weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be available for streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday. 

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” (2012)

Everyone who’s kept up with Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim comedy block over the past few years has heard of Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the masterminds behind “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” And everyone who’s watched the show knows that after seeing it you’ll a) never be able to watch commercials the same way again, and b) notice how much influence these two fellas have had over what is now considered “mainstream” comedy.

“Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” was a sketch show that ran from 2007 to 2010. It was freakin’ weird, to say the least, and its surrealistic, satirical humor mocking advertisements, public-access television, and everything in between has since spawned a spin-off, “Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule,” which stars John C. Reilly, and the full-length feature “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” (B$M).

Here’s the thing about Tim and Eric: you seriously don’t understand what I mean when I say “weird” until you’ve seen their work for yourself. Their brand of humor takes some getting used to, and there’s a reason each episode of the show only ran for 11 minutes. I’m about to wow you with a brand new saying, but sometimes, less is more. As a result, I’m somewhat skeptical of recommending “B$M” as your first dip into the T+E pool. You really should get your feet wet first with sketches like “Griddleman,” “Prices,” “Free House for You, Jim,” Tairy Greene’s Acting Seminars for Children, and some of Brule’s Rules, and maybe even watch a few full episodes of the show (there are always a couple streaming on the Adult Swim website) before committing yourself to 94 minutes of this stuff. That said, there’s a reason Tim and Eric were the best kept secret in American comedy for so long. And a lot of the best-known names in the genre, guys like Ben Stiller, Paul RuddWill Ferrell, John C. Reilly and, Zach Galifianakis, made appearances on the show (the last three went on to star in the movie). The full list of cameos is certainly jarring, you might look at it and wonder how the hell you’d never heard of a show with that many big names before.

Tim and Eric are hilarious, but certainly not for everyone, and their humor is almost unexplainable until you experience it firsthand. If you watch a few sketches and find yourself enjoying them, then check out the trailer for the “Billion Dollar Movie.” But their stuff is often hate it or love it, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if 30 minutes in you feel like you’re watching the worst film ever made. The thing is, anti-humor is part of the shtick. Tim and Eric’s work (but the film especially) is meant to provoke a strong reaction one way or the other. They were actually trying to repulse just as many people as they entertained. And in that, they’ve inarguably succeeded. Just look at the Netflix user reviews, they’re nearly all five stars or one, with very little in between.

“Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” was released earlier this year through on-demand TV and web services—which I believe is the future of movies, why pay $10 each to sit in an uncomfortable theater when you can pool the money together without leaving the couch? But that’s a story for a different day. Anyway, I’ll give you the synopsis, but it’s really irrelevant. The fact that the guys could even string together a semi-coherent plot line to go along with their “jokes” is nothing short of amazing. What you need to know is this: It’s Tim and Eric. It’s a movie. Great job!

Tim and Eric are given a billion dollars to make a movie, but squander every dime… and the sinister Schlaaang corporation is pissed. With their lives at stake, the guys skip town in search of a way to pay the money back. When they happen upon a chance to rehabilitate a bankrupt mall full of vagrants, bizarre stores and a man-eating wolf that stalks the food court, they see dollar signs-a billion of them.

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

Hidden Netflix Gems: ‘Trailer Park Boys’

It’s Saturday night and you need something to watch. Never fear, Hidden Netflix Gems is a new weekly feature designed to help you decide just what it should be, and all without having to scroll through endless pages of crap or even leave the house. Each choice will be streaming on Netflix Instant, and the link below will take you to its page on the site. Look for a new suggestion here every Saturday. 

This week’s Hidden Netflix Gem: “Trailer Park Boys” (2001-2008)

“Trailer Park Boys” is a Canadian mockumentary series following the exploits of Julian (John Paul Tremblay), Ricky (Robb Wells), and Bubbles (Mike Smith), lifelong friends and serial criminals living in a Nova Scotia trailer park—when they aren’t in jail that is. The three pals run petty scams and dream up get rich quick schemes. They grow pot, act in homemade pornos, run bars out of trailers and sell counterfeit CDs. Most of the time, their plans are so ludicrous they need no help getting caught. Nonetheless, the boys live under the watchful eye of cop turned Trailer Park Supervisor Jim Lahey (John Dunsworth), who’s constantly working to derail their plans. The series might just be the best thing ever to come out of America’s hat, and all seven seasons (55 episodes) are currently available on Netflix Instant.

Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles are surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, the residents of Sunnyvale Trailer Park, each with their own trademark mannerisms and personalities.  There’s wannabe rapper J-Roc (Jonathan Torrens), who honestly believes he’s black (he’s not), and Mr. Lahey’s perpetually shirtless, cheeseburger-loving sidekick, Randy (Patrick Roach). There’s Ricky’s on again, off again girlfriend, Lucy (Lucy Decoutere), his father, Ray (Barrie Dunn), a former trucker pretending to need a wheelchair for a disability check, and his fall-guy sidekicks, Cory (Cory Bowles) and Trevor (Michael Jackson), who are never seen without each other, and many more. A young Ellen Page (“Inception,” “Juno”) appears a few times in the first two seasons, playing Mr. Lahey’s daughter. Silly and stupid as they may be, all the characters are incredibly lovable and relatable.

The first season begins with Ricky and Julian returning to Sunnyvale after an 18-month prison stint. Julian wants to go straight and stay out of jail, so he tries to cut ties with Ricky. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. The situation is further complicated when the boys discover a thug named Cyrus (Bernard Robichaud) has taken over the park in their absence.

“Trailer Park Boys” isn’t exactly cerebral, but it’s as hilarious as it is lewd, crude, and ridiculous. The boys are constantly drinking, smoking, and cursing, and I mean constantly. Julian’s movements are ever-accompanied by the clink of ice on glass. He is quite literally never shown without a rum and coke in his hand. In season three, Ricky asks the judge for special permission to smoke and swear while defending himself in court, because “if I can’t smoke and swear, I’m fucked” (check out the clip below).

Because it’s from north of the border, far too few have heard of “Trailer Park Boys.” Half-improv, half-scripted but all hilarious, it might not be thinking-man’s comedy, but it is one of the funniest shows of all time. Give this one a shot, you won’t be disappointed.

Follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

Related Posts