On January 1, 2014 Netflix dropped a digital stack of new movies to freshen up its sometimes-redundant browser list. This influx of 60 new movies was much needed on Netflix’s end, though it came at a price. For every great movie that seemed to be added there is one that has been removed. I’m pretty bummed I put off watching Lars and the Real Girl for as long as I have. Now I’m forced to put on pants and go to RedBox to rent it rather than requesting it on Netflix from the comfort of my bed.
Anyway, it's nice to see a fresh set of films on Netflix, some of which I’ve never gotten the chance to see, others that are very worthy of a revisit. Here are five films that caught my attention on Netflix Instant’s list of new movies.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
1999 is easily in contention as one of the best modern years for the movies. It’s easy to forget just how many great films, specifically notable cult classics, came out in 1999. Here’s just a small list: The Matrix, Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, American Pie, American Beauty, The Blair Witch Project, Being John Malkovich, Office Space. Please, someone suggest another year in recent memory that has even come close to a lineup like this.
Depending on your age, The Talented Mr. Ripley is either at the top of this list or is completely absent. Based off of the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name, the film follows a working class nobody by the name of Tom Ripley (played by a pre-Ocean’s Eleven Matt Damon). Ripley has a knack for lying; he isn’t a big fan of himself. He finds it easier to fib about his life as a means of fitting in among the social elite. But his little fibs take a very extreme turn when he is recruited to retrieve a spoiled playboy from his party-binge in Europe. In 2014, where social media plays an integral part in our everyday lives, it is interesting just how relevant its theme—that the life others perceive is much different than the life we really live—is.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Man, they really didn’t give a shit in the 80s did they? I can’t tell if Big Trouble in Little China is trying to be as genuine as possible or if everyone on screen is in on the big joke. Given how much I laugh at this movie, I’m going to guess it’s the latter. The movie centers around Kurt Russell as a rough n’ tough truck driver/tank top enthusiast. In an effort to help out his friend Wang Chi—who is Chinese, believe it or not—Russell finds himself amidst an ancient battle for San Francisco’s Chinatown. He must battle the entire underworld in order to safe a damsel in distress from a thousand-year-old wizard. The movie is pure camp and a whole lot of fun.
Raging Bull (1980)
It’s really sad to think that I have to experience Scorsese’s best work retroactively. I recently got caught up with Wolf of Wall Street, a film I very much enjoyed. And at the age of 71 I give Scorsese all the credit in the world for churning out quality works. But something just seems to be amiss to the calculated, visceral, and gritty storytelling that was so prevalent in Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. It’s too small to call it a misstep, yet just big enough that some disappointment creeps into me when I don’t leave a Scorsese film experiencing the same awe my parents tell me about after leaving Raging Bull. It stars Robert DeNiro as boxer Jake LaMotta. His self-destructive lifestyle leads him to glory in the ring and turmoil outside of it. I like movies like The Wolf of Wall Street but I love movies like Raging Bull. Both movies have so much in common—they deal with indulgence and they have no room for moderation. Yet Raging Bull hits so many notes that can only be conceived by a master artist working on his masterpiece.
This 1999 film might pale in comparison to the ones I previously mentioned, but it's worth the watch nevertheless. This film is small in its attitude yet persistent in its technique. Ghost Dog is a hitman for the Italian-mafia. He lives by the principals of the samurai in an attempt to find tranquility amongst the urban warfare that surrounds him. The pace is very slow and very steady but it has a great art house feel to it. Oh, and did I mention that RZA did the entire soundtrack? That might be reason enough to see it.
American Psycho (2000)
Huey Lewis and the News will just never sound the same to me after watching this movie. I suppose having a serial killer analyze your greatest hits before he murders is some sort of demented flattery. Patrick Bateman strikes me as the really cool guy in your frat that drops some really messed up emotional baggage on you when he’s drunk one night. Then again, maybe I only get that vibe because we, the audience, have him narrating his twisted thoughts throughout this entire movie.
I won’t delve deep into the plot, but Christian Bale plays a member of the New York elite who finds it hard to fight his impulses. I love Bret Easton Ellis’ book of the same name and I think the movie really does the material justice. Most of this is due to a masterful performance by Christian Bale who is equal parts manic, hilarious, and disturbing. The movies shows the inner demons we may not know we have, and it teaches us to always be careful who you show off your business card to.
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