The following titles are available on Netflix streaming as of July 1st.
12 Angry Men (1957)
Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall
Juror #8 (Henry Fonda), the only juror who gives a “not guilty” preliminary vote during the trial of a Hispanic boy who is accused of murdering his father, slowly sways the other jurors into really questioning the facts of the trial, as to not convict a potentially innocent boy. The whole movie takes place in one room, and we watch as the 12 jurors argue among themselves as to whether or not the victim is guilty, and they try to get a unanimous vote. It’s not an easy thing to pull off a cinematic masterpiece that takes place in only one room. However, with Reginald Rose’s clever script and Sidney Lumet’s direction, we have an unforgettable classic that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Director: John Singleton
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Angela Bassett
Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his friends struggle with growing up in the South Central Los Angeles ghetto, where it’s easier to kill a man than it is to get into college. This is an intelligently made film that reveals a lot of the problems in American society that deal with racism, poverty, and gang violence. The characters aren’t shown as “mindless thugs.” Even Ice Cube’s character, who is fresh out of prison when we see the older version of him, doesn’t like the life he’s living, but he just accepts that that’s the way he feels it has to be, since he has no options that will lead him out of that kind of life. Tre, on the other hand, is intelligent and hard-working, and has a chance to make it out and go to college. With the guidance of his father (Laurence Fishburne), he tries hard to stick to his morals even though he witnesses violence all around him. Writer and director John Singleton made a film that is emotional and socially relevant, and one of the best movies to come out of the early 90s.
City of God (2002)
Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Leandro Firmino, Alice Braga
A young photographer named Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) recalls the events during the rise a of drug lord named Li’l Zé (Leandro Firmino) and his rival, Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The first time I saw this movie was in an anthropology class during my first semester in college, and ever since then, it has been one of my favorite foreign films of all time. In that class we were studying what happens to social order when people are living in urban slums, or favelas, as they are called in Brazil. It’s not an easy movie to watch since it’s very violent and it’s not that kind of mindless violence you see in action movies and such that’s meant to be entertaining, this is the kind of violence that really happens in some places of the world. Again, the main character wants to make something of himself in a place where everyone is either killing or being killed. It’s an eye opening story, which can be unsettling at times, but it is truly a masterpiece of cinema and an unforgiving portrayal of life in the City of God.
Director: Richard Attenborough
Cast: Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen
Genre: Biography Drama
The story of Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) as he fights for Indian rights in South Africa, leads India towards independence from the British Empire, and tries to relieve the religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims. This is a beautiful film about the heroism of Gandhi and the influence he had on the people around him. Kingsley pulls off the performance of a lifetime in this role, very deserving of the Oscar he received for it. It’s not just a simple biography of the man who became an icon of peace. Attenborough presents it in a way that allows you to become emotionally invested in the story and makes you really care about this man that you might not have even known much about beforehand. This movie won 8 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Ben Kingsley, Best Director for Attenborough, and Best Screenplay.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue
Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is a bullied boy who is taught fighting and discipline by a martial arts master named Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). I loved this movie as a kid. Mr. Miyagi is awesome, and I liked his “wax on, wax off” methods of teaching discipline. It was a good, family friendly way of introducing martial arts into American cinema, and it had that message of using martial arts to better yourself, instead of using it for violent reasons, like beating people up who annoy or bully you, which is still a good reason to use it, in my opinion. Pat Morita found an iconic role in the wise and likable Mr. Miyagi, and I imagine he will still be remembered for it for many years to come.
My Girl (1991)
Director: Howard Zieff
Cast: Anna Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis
Vada (Anna Chlumsky) lives in a funeral home with her father, Harry (Dan Aykroyd). The death of her mother as well as the numerous dead bodies who come through her home at any given time has caused her to grow up as a hypochondriac with a very real fear of death. She is faced with even more problems when Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis) is hired by Harry and he begins to fall in love with her. This is another movie that I really liked when I was younger. Being a bit of a hypochondriac myself, I always could relate to Vada. It’s really kind of a sad movie that has made me cry on numerous occasions. Anna Chlumsky was a pretty convincing young actress, and this was also the time when Macaulay Culkin was still talented and adorable, and not totally weird. Their friendship is moving, as Thomas J. (Culkin) keeps Vada grounded in a life she feels she has no control over. It’s a great coming-of-age story that I still enjoy to this day.
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Cast: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young
Genre: Biography Drama
In this movie, George C. Scott gives his Oscar-winning performance as General George S. Patton. The movie opens up with that iconic scene of Patton giving a speech to the troops with a giant American flag in the background. He basically tells it like it is, you don’t join the army to die for your country, you join it to win, let the men on the other side die for their country instead. Patton was known for being very outspoken and he was merciless towards those who feared the fight. Whereas some men couldn’t handle the violence, Patton was fueled by war. Being a General wasn’t just an occupation, it was who he was through and through, he was born to be a leader. You get a good sense of who that man was in this film. I have no idea how historically accurate his portrayal is, but who really cares? George C. Scott is Patton, as far as I’m concerned. This movie takes place during WWII, but it’s not about WWII, it only serves as a backdrop to Patton’s story. This movie won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. It is definitely worth seeing.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell
Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) is a lawyer diagnosed with AIDS who is fired from his law firm because of his condition. He decides to file a lawsuit and seeks help from Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), a lawyer who at first is hesitant to help him due to his own prejudices against homosexuals and AIDS, but he is able to eventually overcome them in order to get justice for Andrew. This movie deals with a lot of the earlier problems AIDS patients faced before people really knew much about the disease. You can see that in this film when people, including Joe, keep their distance from Andrew upon learning of his condition, as if just touching him might result in the spread of the disease. Tom Hanks won an Oscar for Best Actor in this very convincing and tragic role as a man dying of AIDS. Denzel Washington was also perfect for his part as the homophobic lawyer, as he works really well with these very confident type of roles that we often see him in. It’s a touching story about a man fighting for his human rights even though most of the world treats him as less than human, and another man’s battle with himself to push his prejudices aside in order to do what is right.
Primal Fear (1996)
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Cast: Richard Gere, Edward Norton, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand
Genre: Mystery/Crime Drama
Martin Vail (Richard Gere) is a lawyer who is defending an altar boy, Aaron (Edward Norton), who is accused of murdering a priest. It becomes clear that Aaron isn’t mentally stable, and despite this, Martin becomes convinced that his client is innocent. The story is unpredictable and twisty and I love crime dramas that actually manage to pull off unpredictable twists. Edward Norton further proves in this role just how amazingly talented he actually is. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but unfortunately didn’t win. He was definitely deserving of it, though. Richard Gere isn’t bad either, but I feel like I’ve seen him in these kinds of roles before. If you like crime movies that keep you on your toes, then I would recommend this because it’s one of the best I’ve seen.
These two titles will be available in a week or two and are also worth watching.
Out of the Furnace (2013) (Available July 9th)
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard
An accident lands Russell (Christian Bale) in prison. Meanwhile, his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) becomes mixed up in a crime ring with a criminal named Harlan (Woody Harrelson), which costs him his life. When the police fail to do their job, Russell, who is eventually released from prison, has to decide whether or not it’s worth it to risk his freedom by taking justice into his own hands. While the story isn’t very original, it still manages to be entertaining and has enough talented performances and emotional depth to make it worth your while. Bale and Affleck are two great actors of our generation doing what they do best here. Harrelson never really fails at pulling off the bad guy role, he has a pretty scary onscreen presence, which is only countered by the softer or more humorous roles he chooses to take from time to time. Here, though, he is a guy I wouldn’t want to mess with. I think that this is one movie from last year that was hugely overlooked.
The Master (2012) (Available July 14th)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) an alcoholic Naval veteran finds himself aboard a ship with a group of people who call themselves “The Cause,” and he is drawn to the “master” of this organization–Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman)–who takes a special interest in trying to help him. Freddie is basically a lost soul who is drawn to the sense of belonging in a community. He doesn’t see that these people are more or less a cult who claim they can heal people in strange ways that are not based on any kind of medical or scientific grounds. Even Lancaster shows himself as being a bit unstable once his easy-going, charismatic personality begins to wane a little. People have speculated about the connection between Lancaster Dodd and The Cause with The Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I think that Paul Thomas Anderson might’ve admitted to this, which is kind of interesting, although unimportant. What is important is that even though this film is, at times, strange and slowly paced, it’s the performances by the actors–Phoenix, Hoffman, and Adams, specifically–that really make this movie incredible. Of course, having Anderson, who is a fantastic director doesn’t hurt either.