The Netflix Files: February 2, 2012

For Netflix, 2011 was a pivotal year in determining the company’s sustainability in the face of a flagging home video market and the push toward streamed content. The near-fatal price hike announced in July lost Netflix 800,000 subscribers, and CEO Reed Hastings’ seemingly endless flow of apology emails (as well as one particularly stubborn pothead on Twitter) continued to diminish brand loyalty. In the midst of this, Netflix examined new ways to stay relevant, initiating its unprecedented foray into original content with Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards and the highly-anticipated Arrested Development mini-season. The year culminated on an optimistic note, as stock began to recuperate and Netflix regained 610,000 subscribers.

In light of this, let’s reflect on the significance of 2011 by taking a look at Netflix’s streaming selection of films released last year: the good, the bad and the direct-to-the-bargain-bin-at-Tedeschi shit Nicolas Cage churned out so he wouldn’t have to sell another home.

Hell and Back Again – This acclaimed documentary about American soldiers in the Middle East screened at Brown earlier this year. Now it’s nominated for an Oscar.

Hobo With a Shotgun – Exactly what you think it is. The second film inspired by a fake trailer generated for Tarantino/Rodriguez’s Grindhouse (after 2010’s Machete), this Canadian actioner has all the mindless, schlocky gore you’d expect from such a masterpiece.

Insidious – The most profitable film of 2011, this horror flick made nearly $100 million in March off a $1.5 million budget. Starring Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) and directed by James Wan (the guy who did Saw).

Kill the Irishman – This crime biopic following an Irish mobster in 1970s Cleveland stars Christopher Walken, Val Kilmer and a host of other recognizable faces. Despite its limited release, it was fairly well-received.

Limitless – The blockbuster action-thriller you probably saw this past spring. Bradley Cooper unlocks access to 100% of his brain power and tears up Manhattan.

No Strings AttachedFriends With Benefits, thankfully sans the annoying flash mob.

Page One: Inside the New York Times – An illuminating doc on the inner workings of print journalism. Featuring Brown guest lecturer and NYT columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, as well as interviews with Julian Assange and Wikipedia chief Jimmy Wales.

Red State – Kevin Smith’s first horror film, a twisted take on Midwestern evangelical cults. Quentin Tarantino called it one of his favorite movies of the year, if that means anything to you.

Season of the Witch / TrespassNicolas Cage!

Senna – This documentary, which featured at the Avon late last year, takes a look at the tragically short life of three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna. It was awarded a rare 92% rating from RottenTomatoes.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil – An under-seen comedy taking the perspective of two good-natured hillbillies who just want to enjoy a couple of beers in the woods, only to be continually mistaken for rapist-killers by a group of brainless, beautiful teenagers.

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