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Eddie Murphy yucks it up and Sean Penn's powerhouse performance: This week’s best and biggest on Netflix

Here's what Jordan Parker recommends you watch while hunkered down under a mound of blankets

Check out Jordan Parker's 'The week's best and biggest on Netflix' every Friday on CityNews Halifax.

Blue Valentine

I don't think any movie of the 2010s hurt me quite like Blue Valentine.

Before director Derek Cianfrance was a Hollywood hot commodity, he quietly put together one of the most resonant films in years.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams combine as a troubled married couple who go on a romantic getaway, in one last-ditch effort to save their family.

The film is told through cross-cuts, jettisoning between their beginnings, the honeymoon phase, and their present, where they hold on by a thread.

Their portrayals of Dean and Cindy show us two complicated individuals whose best and worst are on full display here. We can't be on either side – both do some pretty darn toxic things in this relationship – and yet, we root for them the whole way.

The two stars are Oscar-worthy, though Williams was the sole nominee from this absolutely stunning film.

It's one of the best movies of the decade, and it stuns me it didn't gain more recognition. See it now, but bring a wad of tissues. This one will shake you.

4.5/5 Stars

John Q

Absolutely lambasted during its 2002 theatrical run, John Q is a fantastic emotional thriller that is now cherished by audiences.

It follows John Quincy Archibald, a working-class father and husband pushed over the edge when his insurance company won't cover his son's heart transplant.

He takes matters into his own hands, holding a hospital emergency room hostage until his son gets the life-saving procedure.

Director Nick Cassavetes is a really fun filmmaker who made The Notebook, Alpha Dog and even Cameron Diaz comedy The Other Woman.

He's not always making good movies, but he's certainly versatile. John Q stands as one of his most level efforts.

It's so good, in fact, because it stars a committed Denzel Washington, who elevates the script to new heights.

James Woods, Robert Duvall, Kimberly Elise, Kevin Connolly, and the late Anne Heche.

It's a wonderful, emotional ensemble film, and a hugely entertaining endeavour.

3.5/5 Stars

American Assassin

Sometimes you truly just need a good, old-fashioned shoot-'em-up actioner.

If you do, American Assassin will deliver everything you need.

Director Michael Cuesta – Emmy winner on Homeland – makes a competent, interesting spy thriller, even if it's not too daring.

It follows Michael Rapp, who gets into counter-terrorism work following the death of his girlfriend in a terrorist attack.

He's trained by former U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. Stan Hurley, an older, wiser operative who shows him the ropes.

Dylan O'Brien and Michael Keaton make a great pairing, and this was the first time I really took the former seriously.

Taylor Kitsch also makes a great villain, and was definitely up to the challenge. It's a formidable effort worth seeing on a snowy Sunday.

3.5/5 Stars

Mystic River

One of my Top 10 films of all time, Mystic River is a testament to the bonds of family and friendship, and a meditation on coping with tragedy.

Oscar winner Brian Helgeland adapts Dennis Lehane's incredible novel into an unforgettable feature film.

It follows three childhood friends whose paths diverge as they grow into men. They're all pulled back together when tragedy strikes for one of the trio.

I'd venture to say it's Clint Eastwood's best directorial effort, and the performances are breathtaking.

Sean Penn stars as Jimmy, a street-wise ex-con living a straight life with his family. His life is altered forever when his daughter is murdered, and old friend Sean is the cop assigned to the case.

He begins investigating the third in their childhood trio Dave for the crime, and their friendships become fraught with tension.

Penn nabbed an Oscar here, as did Tim Robbins as Dave. Kevin Bacon, nominee Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, and Laurence Fishburne also star.

It's a breathtaking endeavour that will truly change you – A fantastic film.

5/5 Stars

You People

Sporting the same brand of awkward family comedy that made Meet The Parents a breakout hit, You People is a good – if not great – showcase for its stars.

It follows an interracial couple who find cultures clashing when their families meet. Everything from societal expectation, religion, politics and more become hurdles in the young relationship.

Directed by Kenya Barris – creator of Blackish – it's a racial comedy that pulls absolutely no punches, even if a few don't land.

Co-written by star Jonah Hill and Barris, it's an astute, interesting examination that manages to be interesting, if not laugh-out-loud funny, its entire run-time.

The one thing I will say is seeing Hill and legend Eddie Murphy verbally spar is worth sitting down for to begin with. Lauren London, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Sam Jay, Nia Long, and David Duchovny are all great, but I wish the latter two had more screen-time.

This is not a perfect film, but those who like their humour awkward and sharp will find some breadth, just as I did.

3.5/5 Stars

About the Author: Jordan Parker

Jordan Parker is a freelance journalist and runs entertainment firm Parker PR. He's been a movie nerd since he was old enough to walk.
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