Spring is (nearly) in the air and along for the ride is the ever-hopeful promise of more solid movies to stream. Some powerful, some hilarious, and others thick with childhood nostalgia. Either way, we come out ahead. That is … if we can land on the right ones to watch. There’s certainly no shortage of stuff to choose from, but in the sea of streaming libraries finding the next right one can be daunting. Allow me to help.
Each month, I compile a short-list of worthwhile movies waiting to be unearthed from the algorithms of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like. Because life’s too short to watch the wrong stuff.
Here are a few entertaining films of that will upgrade your “To-Watch” list for the month.
Crazy Stupid Love (2011)
The formula is really quite simple:
Dan Fogelman wrote one of the sharpest and most fun Rom Com scripts of the last 20 years.
Emma Stone, Steve Carrel, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Analeigh Tipton, Kevin Bacon, and, yes, even Josh Groban all star in said fantastic script that culminates in the best “everything goes wrong” scenes.
One hundred percent fun; one hundred percent re-watchable.
So, yeah, there’s never really a bad time to thoroughly enjoy Crazy Stupid Love. Thanks to Netflix, we can add it back into our movie night rotation. Here’s to sneaky brilliant romantic comedies!
FOR FANS OF: The Big Sick; Friends with Benefits; When Harry Met Sally
Every once in a while a film finds you at the right moment. It provides as much therapy as it does discovery; as much beauty as it does authenticity; as much hope as it does loss. Nomadland isn’t a move … it is a subtly stunning visual journey to the finest degree.
To be honest, I’ve grappled for two weeks over finding the right words that may adequately speak to Chloé Zhao’s masterpiece. And each time I think I’m close it still feels trite, or somehow not enough.
How do you capture all there is to be said about a film that leads with feeling? That says more when it doesn’t speak? That speaks to the deepest part of the wandering soul?
Nomadland isn’t just another finely tuned vehicle showcasing Francis McDormand’s brilliance; though it is that. And it’s certainly anything but heavy-handed. Maybe the best we could do for a film of this ilk is to simply say that Nomadland tells the truth; it holds reverence; it appreciates the unappreciated; it moves slowly but always with intention; it exists without fragmentation and without agenda. Just simple beauty and a steady undercurrent of authentic emotion.
That’s what it means to set in this road trip lifestyle movie of sorts … and it’s the best title I’ve seen in a year. Let this one breathe in your space. Also, let’s give Ms. Zhao every Best Director award we can find.
FOR FANS OF: American Honey; Into the Wild; The Wrestler
Hot Take: Hook is top five Spielberg.
Beyond the pull of childhood nostalgia, which carries its own merits, this Peter Pan sequel carries the best components of Spielberg-ian storytelling. Fantastical escapism, imaginative production design, tight action sequences, and a tender appreciation for the formational discoveries of youth. More importantly, it gave us perhaps the single best food scene in modern American cinema.
From Dustin Hoffman perfectly reinventing a literary icon; to Robin Williams’s turn as a leading man action hero; to Smee; to Julia Roberts’s best “little” cameo, Hook not only delivers in featuring 90s Hollywood elite it packs the best sort of sentimental feels. Truth be told, I’m incapable of viewing this film with any sort of objectivity. As a core feature in my childhood, it stands as a comfort film to the deepest degree. Which is all the more reason to fire it back up in my 30’s and relish in the endearing cinematic adventure.
Hook represents so many good things and it deserves to remain in our lives even, if not especially, in adulthood.
FOR FANS OF: Matilda; Jumanji; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The Village (2004)
Okay, so I love this movie; sue me. But you know what? The Village deserves a second chance.
Back in 2003 – 2004 this film was pitched a dark, sinister thriller. “Haunted woods” and “unspeakable creatures” and Joaquin Phoenix were all the promises we were given. Because with M. night Shyamalan, it’s got to be a freaky flick, right?
Cue the release and everyone leaving cinemas disappointed.
It’s the classically needless bait-and-switch. We were sold one thing and given another. Of course folks were frustrated. But I contend that’s more an indictment on the American Movie Marketing Machine than anything else.
Look closer in The Village and what you’ll find is a swelling drama dripping with timely, emotional social commentary. An unconventional love story thriving in the fractured truths of good natured but deeply flawed humanity. A period piece that’s also not. And a creative turn on the concept of what it means to renew oneself.
Anchored by powerhouse, nuanced performances from Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard (where was her Oscar nom?!), William Hurt, and others, The Village, when welcomed for what it is — not what it was sold to be, awakens a sense of keen discovery and tragic hope. With James Newton Howard’s lush strings scoring the journey, we are enraptured by a rich story lead by flawed, relatable characters. This one deserved better, and now we have an opportunity to let it live a healthy second life.
PLATFORM: Prime Video
FOR FANS OF: The Illusionist; A Ghost Story; Lady in the Water
There are two kinds of people in this world:
Folks who ride or die with Willow and folks who ask, “Wait, what?”.
And as someone who identifies and a “ride or die” Willow-er, I feel it’s not just a responsibility but a life mission to spread the word of this verified cult classic. Because who doesn’t love a good old fashioned quest flick?
From the mind of George Lucas and the directing prowess of Ron Howard, Willow is a fantasy adventure filled with imaginative world building, good vs evil, magic, trolls, epic battles, and Val Kilmer rocking the Billy Ray Cyrus mullet. A poor man’s Lord of the Rings of sorts, Willow found favor at the crosshairs of Gen X and Millennials as a trippy yet hopeful family movie with just a touch of “we saw this too early” trauma. In other words, it’s a PG-rated myth from 1988.
All that being said, Willow’s practical effects, earnest heart, moments of silliness, and overall journey deliver a dark yet warm fuzzy resolution to movie watchers. A deeply weird triumph, the legacy of Willow must live on. Consider this a challenge: Enter this film’s orbit if you haven’t yet.
FOR FANS OF: E.T.; Masters of the Universe; The Neverending Story
Hopefully this will breathe new life into your movie selections, or—if nothing else—add a few more solid titles to that endless queue. Either way, you don’t have to settle for something mediocre when Hook is right there. Now, go watch something!
What’s the best hidden gem you’ve streamed recently? Share in the comments and help me expand the list!