Thinking outside the box: the films TV fans should be watching
Film Feature By Owen Herman
In the last few years TV and streaming has become more cinematic, and what we can see for free in our living room is increasingly resembling what we pay to watch in a cinema. However, there is still a huge difference in quality between mainstream series and films. People have become obsessed with the very best TV has to offer, binging shows that boast complex stories, engaging characters, and intelligent writing based around original ideas or exceptional source material, yet with films the box office is still ruled by unnecessary remakes and sequels, CGI smashy-punchy blockbusters, and crude comedies. This is a world where the ‘best TV shows’ lists are dominated by beloved and hugely popular shows like Game of Thrones, Friends, The Simpsons, and Breaking Bad, yet the equivalent film lists are headed by classics often ignored by modern audiences. Recommending 2001: A Space Odyssey to any of my friends would go down like Transformers at the Cannes Film Festival.
There are many explanations for this. We have reached a golden age of TV with streaming services like Netflix offering huge choice wherever and whenever you want it. However, it remains that many of those wrapped up in the latest box set have less interest in a new indie picture, even if it might be similar to what they’re binging. Here I have presented a few brief suggestions for viewers of different series. Some suggestions are certainly famous and successful, others are less well-known. Some are obvious choices (though I decided to avoid suggesting Fargo to Fargo fans) and others are quite out-there. The shows in question are all currently running and immensely popular. Most of the films are modern and are just a general recommendation based on the merits of the TV shows in question, but are also personal favourites of mine. Without further ado:
So, you like slow-mo walking, catchy music, and ear removal? Well Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs is for you. The film chronicles the aftermath of a heist gone wrong for a group of suavely suited criminals. Peaky Blinders clearly draws on many aspects of Tarantino’s movie, going as far as to recreate the famous Mr White – Mr Pink standoff with Tommy Shelby and Freddie Thorne. Other films which tell a similar story of life in criminal gangs are not hard to come by with The Godfather and Goodfellas both being classics.
Rick and Morty:
The darkly comic Rick and Morty is hugely popular, in part thanks to its wacky ideas and originality. But despite it seeming unique, if you cast your eyes to Oats Studios you will be able to see similar ideas at work. The short film studio has been offering many sci-fi shorts (for free), that will either satisfy your taste for the dark and gruesome (Rakka, Firebase, Zygote) or the darkly comic (Cooking with Bill feels very much like its ad breaks would feature Real Fake Doors or even Ants in My Eyes Johnson). While some shorts are far more serious than the adventures of Rick Sanchez, they are still made with the freedom to embrace what imaginative ideas sci-fi has to offer.
The Walking Dead:
At its best, The Walking Dead can be fantastic, but it often drags and has little sense of where it’s heading. Train to Busan, the South Korean zombie movie set on a train, is everything The Walking Dead aspires to be: a scary, unrelentingly tense action-horror experience with engaging characters and lots of emotion. It’s also only two hours long, so no unnecessary farm waiting. The zombie genre is huge, albeit filled with many mediocre entries. Others worth mentioning are Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later which helped re-invigorate the genre for the 21st century, and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead which started it all. However, if you fancy a bit of a light-hearted take on flesh eaters, the UK’s Shaun of the Dead and the US’s Zombieland are both consistently funny and thoroughly entertaining.
House of Cards (and The West Wing):
House of Cards’ slick style, sharp dialogue, and real-world relevance makes it not too dissimilar to The Social Network, one of this generation’s defining films. It is no surprise that the two are linked behind the scenes. David Fincher, director of The Social Network, serves as the series’ executive producer and has even directed a couple of episodes. The executive producer of The Social Network is none other than Frank Underwood himself, Kevin Spacey. House of Cards isn’t the only political drama to have links to the Facebook film; The West Wing was written by Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for his work on The Social Network. It’s very apt in the current climate that even in film and TV, politics and social media seem to be inseparable.
The Handmaid’s Tale:
Dark and disturbing, The Handmaid’s Tale offers a glimpse at society after human fertility is threatened. The general set-up and themes are very similar to 2006’s Children of Men. Also based on a novel, the film takes an even more severe scenario (no children can be conceived at all) and looks at a more violent outcome for society. With Children of Men set in the U.K. and The Handmaid’s Tale in the U.S., these works together are great insights into differences between the two countries, and both provide bleak satire to get one’s teeth into. Both are also painfully relevant, with the series’ focus on women and the film’s portrayal of refugees. However, if this is all a bit depressing, check out The Lobster, a weird and wonderful comedy. While it appears very different to The Handmaid’s Tale, under the surface there are interesting similarities. Set in a similarly dystopian world where being single is outlawed, The Lobster provides a black, but hilarious, look on how society views relationships, sex, and loneliness.
Marvel & Netflix:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is ruling franchise cinema and making its mark on Netflix with the release its fifth separate series, The Defenders. The streaming superheroes have had a mixed reception with Daredevil and Jessica Jones getting the bulk of the praise, and poor Iron Fist getting the brunt of the negativity. To their credit, Marvel’s Netflix outings provide content strikingly different to the usual superhero fare we see in their movies, with a much more adult focus (perhaps pushing the boundaries of violence a bit too far on occasion) and smaller scale conflicts. If you’ve enjoyed the best bits of these series, you are probably a fan of the movies, but there are plenty more films to check out beyond the MCU. With the focus on martial arts and high levels of violence, it’s worth taking the trip to the East. Daredevil fans ought to check out The Raid and its sequel for a similar, but superior, action style (lots of lovely hallways). If you’ve watched Iron Fist and want to indulge in some fantasy tipped martial arts fight scenes where the only emotion you experience is being amused that it’s all a bit silly, check out Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. But if you want to stick with superheroes, M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable provides something different and less familiar.
The unnerving series that shows us dark reflections on society and technology has really become a hit despite its smaller, more British, beginnings. Thrillers as satire on society are common, but the ones that stand out are truly great. For the specific theme regarding technology, Ex Machina, provides a scary and thought-provoking look at artificial intelligence. However, perhaps the biggest and best dark, comedic satire is this year’s Get Out, a horror-comedy about the underlying racism of modern-day America. Despite its huge success, Get Out still deserves to be seen by an even wider audience.
80s sci-fi throwbacks have been very prevalent recently, with the Netflix’s Stranger Things being hugely popular. The Spielberg-esque mystery adventure surrounding children has drawn a large audience who are eagerly awaiting its second season. Back in 2011, J.J. Abrams made his own homage to the genre with the generally underrated Super 8, a charming flick that also centres around a group of children who find themselves mixed up in a sci-fi conspiracy.
Game of Thrones:
The amount of people I know who love Game of Thrones but who refuse to watch The Lord of the Rings always infuriates me. Game of Thrones owes so much to Tolkien’s world and the trilogy is a masterpiece. Also, your parents can walk in at any time and it won’t be awkward. The films may seem a bit long, but they are all well worth your time.
These are just a few suggestions (based on one young person’s viewing). There is so much out there that may not be trending on Twitter, or being highlighted on the Netflix homepage. There are so many films that should appeal to all sorts of people, yet they so often go under the radar of those who would love them the most. Yes, a cinema ticket can be expensive, but when it’s good, the experience offered is far greater than binge watching on an iPhone. I have had so many experiences where people happily sink hours of their time into a new show, but refuse to spend a couple of hours with a film that’s just as well made (if not better). Finding a film you may be interested in may take a little bit of effort, but it will be a hugely rewarding experience. If film can be embraced the way TV has been in the last few years then it’ll be a great step forward for modern cinema.