October brings a quality batch of new releases to Netflix’s instant streaming service. Here’s a quick run down of 10 of the best, for you, your wife and kids.
1. Django Unchained
If you missed it in theaters, you owe it to yourself to see what many people consider a modern classic. Quentin Tarantino’s epic tale of a freed slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a bounty hunter (Chirstoph Waltz) to free his long lost wife from her cruel plantation owner is a masterpiece of filmmaking that earned Tarantino the Academy Award for best screenplay. You could argue that it’s not as good as Pulp Fiction or even Inglorious Bastards, but that’s not really the point: it’s a great movie, with amazing performances and the razor sharp dialogue we’ve come to expect from Tarantino. Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson turn in mesmerizing performances as the evil plantation owner and his ‘house slave’. Available Oct.23rd.
2. Team America: World Police
At this point, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are considered gods of satire and this film delivers on the high expectations that come with their reputation. Poking fun at action movies and Hollywood clichés, the movie takes America’s foreign policy circa 2004 to task, including some fantastic musical numbers such as “America (Fuck Yeah)” and “Freedom isn’t Free”. Over 270 puppets were used in creating the stop-motion film, with a crew of 200 people and a budget of 32 million dollars. The film earned a NC-17 nine times from the rating board before Parker and Stone finally cut it down enough to earn an R. Obviously this one’s not for the kids, but it’s a pleasure to have it on Netflix streaming available for repeat viewings alone or with the guys.
One of the most successful Westerns in film history with a stellar cast lead by Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who saw Tombstone and didn’t enjoy it. The movie is based on events in Tombstone Arizona during the 1800s, including the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride, two gripping moments in the history of the Old West. Kilmer’s performance is considered by many to be a classic, with film reviewer Roger Ebert saying, “People started telling me they really liked Val Kilmer’s performance in Tombstone, and I heard this every where I went. When you hear this once or twice, it’s interesting, when you hear it a couple of dozen times, it’s a trend. And when you read that Bill Clinton loved the performance, you figured you better catch up with the movie.” Later on, he referred to Kilmer’s portrayal as “the definitive saloon cowboy of our time.”
4. Romeo + Juliet
It’s Romeo “plus” Juliet, in the way two young lovers might carve their names into a tree. And that’s what director Baz Luhrmann is going for here: modern teenage angst, via the Bard. Luhrmann shows off the signature style of directing that he would later bring to Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby, and Leonardo DiCaprio shows flashes of heartthrob status that would eventually conquer the world in Titantic. But beyond the flashiness and “teenagey-ness” of it all, there’s actually a pretty bold, brave and respectable film going on here. Claire Danes, as always, is superb, and she and DiCaprio manage to spout the Shakespearean dialogue in a convincing way that makes you feel they actually understand and studied the nuances of Shakespeare’s lines. In a nutshell, it works. If you have teenagers who haven’t seen it, this should capture their attention for a solid two hours while introducing them to Shakespeare; it could work as a movie night with the wife.
5. Sleepless in Seattle
But if you really want a rom-com that you can enjoy with your better half, consider revisiting this Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan classic from 1993. Directed and co-written by the brilliant Nora Ephron who also wrote When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless was inspired by the classic An Affair To Remember, with homages to that movie sprinkled throughout. The writing is whip-smart, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan playing fated lovers who actually spend almost the entire movie apart, barely sharing screen time. That is until… well, why ruin it if you haven’t seen it? A huge smash at the box office, Sleepless in Seattle earned over $200,000,000 in 1993 dollars, a staggering amount, cementing Meg Ryan’s status as the queen of romantic comedies and Tom Hanks’ status as well, the king of all America.
6. Rain Main
One of the greatest dramas ever made, and the definition of an Oscar movie, Rain Main won 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman. And to be fair, if Tom Cruise had been on the scene just a little longer, he probably would have won for best supporting actor, because his performance is phenomenal. But it’s Hoffman who delivers a tour de force here, portraying a savant with startling realism. The screenplay also is considered a template for a “perfect” script, if there is such a thing, tackling a deeply unique and sophisticated subject with poignant grace and comedy. It’s one of the few films that ‘moved the needle’ on the subject of autism, and lines from the film are still quoted endlessly, even 25 years later. You’ve probably seen it, but now you have it at your fingertips to re-watch. Available Oct.31st.
7. Galaxy Quest
By Grabthar’s hammer, see this movie! A fresh and funny science-fiction comedy from 1999 starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest was a success on almost every level. Even if you wanted to hate it going in, you walked out laughing with a smile on your face and a tip of your hat to the clever writing and spot-on acting. The film tells the story of a troupe of actors who defend a group of aliens against an evil warlord; but really what it is, is a parody – – according to J.J. Abrams, Galaxy Quest is “one of the best Star Trek movies ever made.” Rated PG, it’s appropriate for kids 8 and up, and definitely a great ‘movie night’ feature for the family.
8. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Although not quite as funny as Galaxy Quest, and not quite as innovative as Chicken Run, you could do a lot worse than Jimmy Neutron for some kids entertainment. The worst you could accuse it of is being too bland, too vanilla. As the name implies, Jimmy is a genius inventor, and when all the parents in his town are abducted by aliens, it’s up to Jimmy and his friends to fly into outer space and save the day. A mild success when it was released in 2001, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was nominated for the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Shrek.
9. Chicken Run
Chicken Run was a successful stop-motion animated comedy that came out in 2000 and met with mostly positive reviews. It tells the tale of a band of chickens who see a smooth-talking Rhode Island Red named Rocky as their only hope to escape certain death when the owners of their farm decide to move from selling eggs to selling chicken pot pies. Let’s just forget for a moment that Rocky is voiced by the certifiably insane hot-mess that is Mel Gibson. The real stars here are Peter Lord and Nick Park, the directors who work at Aardman Animation studios in Britain. Aardaman has a unique stop-motion/clay motion look to their films that is a welcome throw-back in this day of heavy computer animation. With unique charm and wit, the film delivers enjoyable slapstick comedy and fantastic action sequences, and is definitely worth a family viewing. Just bear in mind the movie can be a little dark for young viewers under 7.
Who doesn’t love Annie? Set during the Great Depression, the film tells the story of Annie, an orphan from New York City who is taken in by America’s richest billionaire, Oliver Warbucks. Although some kids may find the movie a little “slow” by today’s standards, you still hear plenty of stories about how Annie is the ‘most watched DVD’ in many households today. With classic songs like “Tomorrow”, “Maybe” and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”, it’s hard not to respect and enjoy the film. Just don’t be disappointed if your 8 year old boy gets antsy and bails in the first twenty minutes. Since it’s finally on Netflix, it’s worth a shot to see if it captures your kids’ interest.