Netflix, the online streaming service, made its (slightly belated but no less) triumphant arrival in Sri Lanka a few months ago. It opened up a host of films and TV programmes (yes, we’re in the Commonwealth, we speak the Queen’s English here, it’s not ‘movies’ and TV ‘shows’ you American heathens), formerly unavailable in Sri [...]


Prepare to be hooked

In ‘Netflix and Chill’ – our new monthly series, Asantha Jayaweera makes some picks for your entertainment

Charlie Cox as the blind attorney in Daredevil

Netflix, the online streaming service, made its (slightly belated but no less) triumphant arrival in Sri Lanka a few months ago. It opened up a host of films and TV programmes (yes, we’re in the Commonwealth, we speak the Queen’s English here, it’s not ‘movies’ and TV ‘shows’ you American heathens), formerly unavailable in Sri Lanka. People, and by people I mean computer-savvy college students and any ex-pat under the age of 35, upped their entertainment portfolio further by using a VPN to dodge Netflix streaming protocols. VPN stands for Vastly Pretentious Nerdtrick, or something similar, (in the interest of accuracy it’s actually Virtual Private Network) but basically means it fooled Netflix servers into thinking your computer was in another country. Say USA for example, where the Netflix library is huge, and choice is massive.

Now, VPNs are used by everyone from money launderers, to gamers to conspiracy theorists sitting with tinfoil hats worrying that the NSA is ‘monitoring’ them (Edward Snowden single-handedly put up the share-price of VPN providers by about a thousand percent). However, most non-nefarious, non-paranoid people (you guys know that hitting the delete button in the search history doesn’t permanently delete where you’ve been on the internet right?) simply used them to watch the US version of Netflix to get more content. However, under pressure from the big film studios and distributors, Netflix have been blocking all VPN use pretty militantly in the past month, so each country has to stick to their own restrictions. And let me tell you on first viewing, the fallout is not pretty. In Sri Lanka, we have available a monstrous 15.47% of TV programmes available on US Netflix, and 12.74% of the films.

However, despair not dear readers, as there is still some quality programming around. This week, I’m rounding up the Top 5 Netflix-funded, Netflix-exclusive, original content out there.

1) Narcos

Netflix’s first big-budget Spanish-language (it’s also half in English too) series detailing the rise and fall of notorious drug baron Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria is an absolute tour-de-force. Filmed on location in Colombia, it tells the story of the DEA’s war on drugs in South America and Miami. The wonderful retro 80s & 90s vibe, spliced-in real-life news reports and footage, weave a dense tapestry of the Cocaine-trade that made the brutal Escobar (much-loved in his native Medellin) ‘The Colombian Robin Hood’ and one of the 10 richest men on the planet. Starring Wagner Moura (from Brazilian worldwide hit ‘Elite Squad’) as Escobar, and Pedro Pascal (‘The Viper’ from Game of Thrones) and a host of equally excellent actors, this is one of the best pieces of television of the last decade. A must-watch.

2) Daredevil

The potentially tired Superhero genre is alive and well on Netflix. High production values, film-size budget and cinematography make this adaptation of the tale of Hell’s Kitchen’s favourite son, beautiful, visceral and elegant both in concept and execution. Charlie Cox excels as blinded attorney Matt Murdoch, who has heightened other senses and powers. His foil is the restrained but menacing Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin. Established actors, such as Rosario Dawson and Curtis Vondie-Hall pop up in supporting roles, lending some depth to the canvas. Season 2 is available now (with crossover series Jessica Jones, Punisher and Iron Fist either available or in production) If you haven’t watched season 1 yet, then strap yourself in and box-set away. Cinematic, serious and intriguing, this is comicbook fayre done to perfection.

3) House of Cards

The original ‘Netflix exclusive’ show that people subscribed just to watch, it asks the question; does absolute power corrupt absolutely? Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara find out. Take a trip into the dark side of American politics. Based on a famous British political drama in the 1980s, this has the distinction (along with the American version of The Killing) of being at least as good as, if not better, than the original. Snappy dialogue, great characterisation and plotting and scheming of positively Shakespearean proportions, make this a quality piece of programming. Watch it and see who wields the real power behind the thrones. Hilary and Trump take note.

How far will he go: Kevin Spacey in the House of Cards

4) Sense8

This genre-bending entry is about as original as a big-budget programme is allowed to get. Part sci-fi, part human drama, part thriller, part action, part travelogue. Spanning mutliple continents and featuring an interweaving multi-character plot this is brave exciting film-making. A great atmospheric soundtrack and cliffhanger episodes suck you back in for more each time. One to binge-watch.

5) Making A Murderer

The extraordinary tale of Steven Avery is covered in this much-feted, award-winning and wildly popular documentary series, 10 years in the making. Some of the details uncovered during the course of his murder trial(s) really beggar belief. A real-life conspiracy thriller, it’s difficult to summarise without giving away a lot of the exciting and shocking twists and turns. This is a documentary series for people who don’t like documentaries. NetFlix have commisioned a second series as a priority, and also seem to have single-handedly reinvigorated the ‘true-crime’ genre. With revelations that will make you never trust the US Judicial system and police force again, and as crazy as any far-fetched Hollywood plot. Settle in and prepare to get hooked.

Honourable mentions: Orange is The New Black, Bloodline, Jessica Jones, Marseille and Beasts of No Nation.

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