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Connect reviews Netflix's newest original features

"Beasts of No Nation," "Thoughts and Prayers" show streaming service is still on top


October 27, 2015

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    Kenneth Lee hasn’t been doing his homework.
    Well, that’s an exaggeration. He hasn’t TOLD us that he hasn’t been doing his homework, but we don’t see how he gets any of it done when he’s so busy reviewing Netflix features for us. This week, Lee is serving up his thoughts on two new Netflix offerings so you can check them out and decide whether you’d like to forsake your homework to watch them, too.
Beasts of No Nation
    Netflix reasserts its dominance and supremacy of all other streaming services by releasing their first original feature film, Beasts of No Nation, an unnerving piece depicting the recruitment and life of a child soldier. The film was directed, produced and written by Cary Joji Fukunaga and is based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala.
    The film features Idris Elba as a nameless African commandant who manipulates and indoctrinates children into committing savage war crimes. Elba darkly twists his natural charisma and magnetism when portraying The Commandant. Masquerading as a father figure to his young charges, The Commandant is evil incarnate — brutal and grotesque in his actions, yet alluring and powerful in his appearance and demeanor. 
    Although Elba’s sinister performance is definitely Oscar-worthy and a highlight of the film, he avoids overshadowing Ghanaian child actor Abraham Attah, who plays the main protagonist, Agu. 
    Attah, in his debut acting role, gives a performance that demands the audience’s complete attention. He portrays Agu’s descent into savagery with heartbreaking conviction. A captive to the multiple atrocities that he both witnesses and committs under The Commandant, Agu’s journey of abuse is gut-twisting and painful to watch.  
    Beautifully shot and directed, Beasts of No Nation is an unsettling depiction of the hell that thousands of children living in Uganda, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and other countries find themselves trapped in every year.

Thoughts and Prayers
    Just when Amazon Prime and Hulu attempt to find their footing with their own original programming — which is usually hit-or-miss — Netflix shoves them back down into the dirt like a bully at an elementary schoolyard by releasing Thoughts and Prayers, a one-hour comedy special featuring Anthony Jeselnik. 
    For those unfamiliar with his two previous specials, Jeselnik is a stand-up comedian who finds immense satisfaction in being a villain, delivering dark, offensive one-liners with a devilish smirk. Stand-up comedy and political correctness have never mixed well, and with Jeselnik onstage, the latter is practically nonexistent. 
    His jokes aren’t for everyone; there’s a strong possibility that they might hit a nerve with your sensibilities instead of tickling your funny bone. But for those who appreciate gallows humor, Jeselnik’s jokes are just as funny as ever. His haughty and smug demeanor practically provokes God himself to strike lightning at him. However, there’s more than just shock value at work: There’s a sharp cleverness to his joke structure that’s noticeably apparent. 
    Most of Jeselnik’s material is pretty detached, offering little personal information about himself. However, the last third of his act shifts towards a memorable recount of his personal experiences with censorship, offering his perspective on some recent controversial decisions he made while on social media. Throughout Thoughts and Prayers, Jeselnik adapts the persona of Satan, and with each laugh, he steals a little more of your soul.

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