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Watch it/Watch out

Does Netflix Canada suck? Our readers weigh in Add to ...

Since we started highlighting the best and worst of Netflix Canada a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of readers have chimed in with their own recommendations, cautionary tales and general Netflix pro tips. As such, we've decided to include some of our readers' picks in this space from now on.

As for my picks this week, I discovered after writing them up that they actually act as antidotes to one another – the highlight of the week is one of the darkest, most soul-crushing movies I've ever seen, and the lowlight is a camp flick about alien foreheads.

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WATCH IT

Requiem For A Dream

The final section of Hubert Selby Jr.'s Last Exist To Brooklyn is written in all-caps. It's a fitting end for a novel that smoulders with rage throughout, a book that presented readers with scenes of big-city life so brutal and graphic they prompted real-world indecency trials. A chapter titled The Queen Is Dead – from which The Smiths took the name of their album – is about the lonely life of a transvestite prostitute, and is actually one of the happier parts of the book. Rare is the Selby character for whom everything doesn't end in total, heartbreaking misery.

So when the Darren Aronofsky-directed Requiem For A Dream – based on the 1978 Selby novel of the same name – came out in 2000, fans of the author knew it would be a raw, brutal experience. They were right.

Requiem is three intertwining stories, charting the slow devolution of four characters struggling with addiction, desperation and loneliness. If none of this sounds pleasant, that's because it absolutely is not pleasant – artfully shot, yes; affecting, powerful, but depressing as hell. Rarely does a movie so effectively make a viewer want to get up off the couch, step through the screen and help these poor people on the other side. But these are Selby characters, and you know up-front how this is going to play out.

In fact, it's safe to say that the ending of this movie is among the saddest you will ever watch. Great movies can inspire a whole range of emotions, but Requiem is a about just one – it is one of the most beautiful things ever that will ruin your day. Before you decide whether you want to go through with seeing this thing, keep in mind that one of the plot devices is an infected needle wound.

WATCH OUT

Trail Of The Screaming Forehead

Most Netflix users are by now familiar with those weirdly specific recommendation categories that tend to pop up whenever you load up the service – movies arranged under such convoluted subheads as “Witty understated documentaries” or “Bavarian rom-coms featuring at least one mule.”

All of these categories are supposedly based on stuff you've already seen, thanks to the indecipherable magic of Netflix's recommendation algorithms, which try to predict what you're likely to enjoy watching. In reality, however, a lot of the movies on Netflix can fit pretty comfortably into one subheading: “Movies you would only watch by accident or on a dare.”

Which brings us to Trail Of The Screaming Forehead. This is a film about an invasion of alien foreheads. It was released in 2007 and stars nobody you've ever heard of.

Everything about TOTSF suggests its budget was an actual shoestring. The film's aesthetic fluctuates haphazardly from 60s diner to B-movie camp to thrift store acid nightmare. Half the actors look like extras from Soundgarden's video for Black Hole Sun. Every line of dialogue – seriously, every single line of dialogue – is deliberately halting and incongruent, full of Naked Gun-style puns re-imagined by a writer who's simultaneously giving his viewers a wink and the finger. All the characters have names like Droxy Chappelle and Dutch "The Swede" Annacrombie.

All of this is, of course, awesome. And if TOTSF was 20 minutes long, I would absolutely recommend you give it a 4 a.m. Mystery Science Theatre kind of viewing.

But no, it goes the duration. Unsurprisingly, about two-thirds of the way through its 90-minute running time, you start to get the sense that the cast and crew have finally run out of joie de vivre – and by joie de vivre I mean peyote.

Still, TOTSF is exactly what a bad movie should be: playful, unselfconscious and boasting what is, at most, $30 worth of props. The alien foreheads are almost certainly made of Play-Doh, and the single most realistic piece of stage scenery is a sign for something called the “Institute For Brain Studying.”

Netflix's always-helpful recommendation engine lists TOTSF under the “horror” category, which happens to include some of the most awful titles the service has to offer (and not just ha-ha awful, but offensively, flagrantly awful – Human Centipede 2 awful). As far as late-night, oh-what-the-hell-let's-do-it viewings go, Netflix users can do much, much worse.

READER'S PICKS

mr.steevo:

Netflix has the BBC TV 1st season episodes of Sherlock. Excellent. Another great series is Life on Mars (UK or US versions). We also really enjoyed BBC's Luther. Finally BBC's Survivors is a great End of the World TV show. Enjoy.

MoveCapitalToThunderBay

The "IT Crowd" is my favorite gem!!!!!!

BarnabyJones

So far I have gone through Breaking Bad (incredible), Top Gear (several times, its a great "background noise" kind of show), News Radio (at least the episodes before Phil Hartman's horrible death), and a couple movies. It is like 75% garbage, but there is enough good stuff on there to make it worth a few months of subscription.

And here’s a tip from GeneralError324:

Maybe there's something wrong with the "Recently Added" page if it wasn't updated in 3 months. I subscribe to an RSS feed from can.whatsnewonnetflix.com and I'm seeing new additions every couple of days.

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