For some people, Sundays during the NFL season aren't national holidays. We at Burbs recognize this fact, and want to acknowledge that we see you. This is for you, non-football lovers. Those who want to just kick back on a Sunday, throw their phone across the room and be told a story. This is our second contribution to a weekly series with five picks from our TV and film writers.
Peaky Blinders - Netflix
If you caught my recommendation last week, this one shouldn’t surprise you too much. I love a good crime drama; add family ties and a cultural angle to the mix, and you have yourself a classic. Peaky Blinders follows the Shelby clan—a band of brothers in 1920s Birmingham, England, who serve as innovators in the fine art of organized crime. Horse races are their bread and butter—hence the show’s title—but the boys dabble in every single market they can sneak into.
The Shelbys are led by the strategic and charismatic Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). He is not the oldest in the family, but by far the most poised. His parents are out of the picture, but his Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) is a strong female figure for the family—often to the boys’ chagrin. Tommy’s elder brother Arthur (Paul Anderson) is a loveable nutcase who often serves as the group’s wildcard. Younger brothers John (Joe Cole) and Finn (Harry Kirton) gradually become valuable components of the family enterprise, while Ada (Sophie Rundle) is the lone Shelby sister. Other great performances come from actors such as Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody, and Annabelle Wallis throughout the show’s five seasons (the sixth and final season is on its way).
The show is addictive—plain and simple. There are few dull moments considering that the Shelbys are better at making enemies than friends. Nearly every episode will pull you in more than the last; it takes a different type of willpower to not let that “Next episode playing in 5 seconds...” do its thing.
First Reformed (2017) - Amazon Prime Video
Can God forgive us for what we’ve done to this earth?
This is a question I’ve pondered far too often since watching Paul Schrader’s religious 2017 thriller. In First Reformed, audiences are introduced to Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke)—a Protestant minister running a withering historic church in upstate New York. Upon being exposed to the realities of environmental extremism, Reverend Toller spends the majority of this immaculate picture questioning his already strained faith with Christ.
Schrader, co-writer of Scorsese-cinema-classics Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, brings a number of compelling factors to the table in First Reformed. However, one in particular stands out far above the rest: the harrowingly natural, real human dialogue. First Reformed exhibits mostly one-to-one interactions; conversations between masterful actors/actresses Ethan Hawke (in arguably his greatest performance), Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer and more do Schrader’s disturbingly realistic script further justice.
Paul Schrader plants a seed in your head with this A24-produced triumph. It’s a story that feels uncomfortably possible—one that sheds light on the commonly ignored dichotomy between religious faith and nature.
Harley Quinn - HBO Max
Harley Quinn, the adult animated TV show, is a DC show packed with F-bombs, gruesome violence, vulgar jokes, and is centered around loveable villains. In other words, it’s unlike any superhero content you’ve ever seen.
The story follows the baseball bat wielding, neon colored super villain Harley Quinn as she wreaks havoc on Gotham following her breakup with The Joker, which is the same base plot of the recent Harley Quinn movie Birds of Prey, but the similarities stop there. The show satirizes the D.C. Universe, turning every character into a comical shell of who they are in the live-action movies. For example, a burnt out Jim Gordon living in a sexless marriage, an awkward, emotionless Batman, and a tantrum throwing Bane.
Although it's a comedy, and a good one, what really brings the show together is the complex character relationships that run beneath the jokes. The heart of the show is the bond between Harley and Ivy, who move in together after Harley’s done with Mr. J, and have an up and down relationship throughout the series. If you got the Sunday shakes, and want to watch a show that will go great with your morning coffee/doob, turn on Harley Quinn and your day will be over before you know it.
Good Time (2017) - Netflix
Josh and Benny Safdie are masters at crafting a “feeling.” Whether it’s extreme despair in 2014’s Heaven Knows What or suffocating anxiety in 2019’s Uncut Gems, the Safdie’s paved the way with their first big time release, Good Time.
The film follows Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) as he attempts to free his special needs brother Nick (Benny Safdie) from Rikers Island after a robbery-gone-wrong.
As he attempts to clean his stolen money and come up with $10,000 in one night to bail out his brother, Connie runs across New York City, never seeming to make the right move. Connie comes across a plethora of interesting characters, a majority of them non-actors who are simply playing themselves (i.e. a bail bondsmen).
The Safdies paint their own portrait of New York City, the backdrop of all their films. Good Time never lets off the gas, lending an intense feeling of claustrophobia and panic. It’s younger brother Gems makes you feel anxious because you’re rooting for Adam Sandler’s Howard Ratner, but the Safdies never give you a chance to like Connie. He’s simply a piece of shit.
If you’re a fan of Uncut Gems, crime thrillers that take place across one night, or Robert Pattinson, then Good Time is, indeed, a good time.
There Will Be Blood (2007) - Netflix
There are few Director-Actor duets who are successful enough to demand multiple
collaborations (Scorsese-DiCaprio, Coppola-Pacino, Tarantino-Waltz, and Gerwig-Ronan all come to mind). Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis take that relationship and elevate to an unforeseeable level in their two masterworks There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread.
Filmed at the same time and location as the Academy award winning No Country for Old Men, this feature film is a journey through an oil-man’s career in the early 20th century. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an awfully particular man who refuses to allow things to go outside of his own pace. He makes a fortune-filled life by the way of manual laborers drilling for oil. He is, in every sense of the word, an oil-man. He adopts the son of one of his deceased workers whom dies in the field and uses the child as a sympathetic tool to gain the trust of villagers in order to take advantage of their land. Plainview’s greed and obsession for winning results in a rivalry with Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) that provides enough tension to catapult the movie into an echelon of its own company.
My personal favorite part of this movie are Plainview’s cynic monologues, none greater than when he is fire-side with a man impersonating his half-brother. “I hate most people,” the often drunken Plainview declares. If you’re a fan of performances that are cemented in cinematic history, and/or films that are directed by genuine geniuses with a distinct vision, then There Will Be Blood is the perfect glass of scotch for you.