With flowers blooming and birds chirping, that means it’s May and time for another look at what is newly streaming on the home film service, Netflix Instant. Here are five films that are new to the Netflix instant watch catalog and deserve to be seen by even the most casual movie watcher.
Ridley Scott directed this Roman era epic starring Russell Crowe, who is tapped for the throne after the death of the emperor. Instead, he finds himself condemned to death by the late ruler’s power-hungry son. Escaping execution, Crowe’s character becomes a powerful gladiator, bent on exacting revenge in the ring. Crowe won an Academy Award for his performance and the film dominated the year’s Oscar ceremony winning four other awards, including Best Picture. The film is expansive and seems like a movie that is on too large of a scale for the viewer to keep up with on the first viewing, especially with a running time of over two and a half hours. However, I could write down the major beats with no problem. (For instance, this leads to this, which leads to this and this is what happened at the end.)
Kill Bill: Volumes I & II (2003 & 2004)
Both volumes of this classic are streaming and I decided to lump them together, even though writer/director Quentin Tarantino opted to split them. This bloody revenge story stars Uma Thurman and a cast of assassins that her character is hell bent on killing before she reaches her ultimate goal of finding and killing her former employer, Bill. The first volume is very much a set-up for the rest of the story, save the epic fight scene at the end. Meanwhile, the second volume finds her knocking off more assassins and punching her way out of a coffin before she finally reaches Bill.
A take on the Peter Pan tale from Steven Spielberg and starring Robin Williams, this film shines not because of Williams or the modern day spin, but rather because of the outstanding performance from Dustin Hoffman as the title character. He is ruthless and potentially scary to younger viewers, however at times he is hilarious for older audiences who can grasp his style and small jokes. Williams is decent and Julia Roberts is an adequate Tinkerbell, but Hoffman jumps off the screen from the moment he is revealed.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
When idealistic junior senator Jefferson Smith, played by James Stewart, arrives in Washington, D.C., he’s full of plans and dazzled by his surroundings – qualities he retains despite widespread corruption among his cynical colleagues. Jean Arthur puts in a sharp performance as Smith’s streetwise secretary, who helps him navigate his way through Congress, in this Academy Award-winning classic from director Frank Capra. A film that is approachable for all ages (and don’t let the release date fool you), it still holds up with a terrific lead performance and masterful directing.
Forrest Gump (1994)
In what is Tom Hanks’ greatest performance to date, a simpleminded man, finds himself in the middle of nearly every major event of the 1960s and ’70s. Along the way, he makes friends, changes lives and yearns for his childhood sweetheart, Jenny. Some may say it tries to pull at the heart strings a few times and ends with a neat little bow, but the journey to get there is worth taking. Forrest is naive at times, yet never annoyingly so. Hanks finds a balance of normality and idiocy to the character, but above all, he finds honesty.