With so many titles to choose from, Netflix Instant's library can be overwhelming. So we bring you this biweekly column as a tool to cut through the clutter by highlighting some now streaming titles that pair well with the latest theatrical releases.
Looking to The Lone Ranger, Despicable Me 2 and The Heat for inspiration, we've pulled together a selection of standout westerns, colorful animated adventures, and features with kick-ass heroines.
The Lone Ranger
How did a lawman named John Reid transform into the legendary hero The Lone Ranger? This big-budgeted tent pole with a western flare starring Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter wants to clue you in. Gore Verbinski directs. (Read our review here.)
The July 4th holiday is a fantastic time to revel in the most All-American genre: westerns! Whether you want something classic or cutting edge, flashy or thoughtful, Netflix has got a title that should tantalize.
True Grit (1969) For something classic and full of old school brass, check out John Wayne in his Academy Award-winning turn as the cantankerous U.S. Marshal with a heart of gold, Rooster Cogburn. The adventure begins when tomboy Mattie Ross's father is murdered, and his killer runs off. Determined to find justice for her slain father, Mattie hires a marshal as stubborn as herself to help her track the varmint down. Kim Darby and Glen Campbell co-star; Henry Hathaway directs.
Blackthorn (2011) For a more modern take on westerns, try this indie that imagines Butch Cassidy survived that legendary showdown in 1808, but fled to a corner of Bolivia where he created a new name (James Blackthorn) and found some peace. Craving to see the US once more before he dies, this legend begins a journey home along with an ambitious young thief, who attracts all sorts of trouble. Sam Shepard stars; Eduardo Noriega, Stephen Rea, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau co-star. Mateo Gil directs.
Rango (2011) Also directed by Verbinski and starring Depp is this deeply quirky western that centers on a pet chameleon who must learn to blend into the deserts of the Wild West when a freak accident separates him from his humans. Left to his own devices, Rango creates an intimidating persona in the town of Dirt, and soon becomes their new sheriff, entangled in a treacherous quest to uncover what happened to the local water supply. Abigail Breslin, Isla Fisher, Harry Dean Stanton and Ned Beatty also lend their voices.
Despicable Me 2
In this sequel to Despicable Me, Gru thinks he's out of the villain game. But when a new super criminal emerges, the Anti-Villain League calls upon this ex-baddie to be a hero once more! Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, and Russell Brand lend their voices; Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud direct. (Read our review here.)
Animation is a great venue for unconventional hero tales, from fuzzy malcontents to cross-dressing nation-savers, and toon-hating detectives. This holiday weekend, you can have your pick of three dazzling animated adventures.
The Lorax (2012) Inspired by the environmentalism-themed children's book by Dr. Seuss, this feature cartoon—also produced by Illumination Entertainment—tells the regrettable tale of the Once-ler. Once, he was an entrepreneur with a dream and—thanks to the insistence of the titular tree spirit—a thought toward sustainability. But as the money comes rolling in for his Thneeds—a thing that everyone needs don't you know—the Once-ler begins to rationalize away his commitment to the ecosystem around him. But can a boy with a big heart save the day? Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Betty White lend their voices. Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda direct.
Mulan (1998) Based on an Chinese legend, this vibrant action-adventure unfolds the incredible tale of Mulan, a girl who masqueraded as a young man to spare her crippled father from having to return to the front lines of a brutal war. Hiding her true identity, Mulan (Ming-Na) trains to be a soldier, and no matter the obstacle forges ahead with the kind of persistence that is demanded of a true hero. Along the way, she's helped by a lucky cricket and a troublesome dragon named Mushu (Eddie Murphy). BD Wong, Miguel Ferrer, George Takei, Pat Morita, and Harvey Fierstein also lend their voices.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) A comedy-noir suitable for kids, this groundbreaking feature won three Academy Awards in large part because of its astounding blending of live-action actors and hand-drawn animated characters. In a world where people and toons live side-by-side, Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is fed up with their wacky antics. A hard-boiled detective with debts piling up, he's forced to take on a toon case when a major studio needs to wrangle the attention of their unfocused star, Roger Rabbit. Soon, one sleazy snooping job leads Eddie into a murder case and literally bound to the loony toon. Christopher Lloyd co-stars as a local judge who has discovered a way to kill toons who get out of hand. Robert Zemeckis directs.
Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy team up for an action-comedy that is sidesplittingly funny and undeniably sharp. Bullock is an uptight, by-the-book FBI agent; McCarthy is a rule-breaking, ball-busting Boston cop. But they must team up to bring down a powerful and mysterious drug lord. Demián Bichir, Michael McDonald, and Tony Hale co-star; Paul Feig directs. (Read our review here.)
Yup, The Heat is that buddy cop movie that stars women instead of two veiny-necked dudes. But rather than making the jokes about women in the workplace, Feig and writer Katie Dippold made sure their heroines were badass cops like Riggs and Murtaugh, and the humor came from their personality clashes. With The Heat kicking ass at the box office this weekend, it seemed fitting to focus on movies where the female protagonists were kick-ass at their jobs…sometimes literally.
Haywire (2012) Before she was playing sidekick to The Rock in Fast & Furious 6, MMA fighter Gina Carano was Steven Soderbergh's mesmerizing and muscle-bound muse for this unconventional spy thriller. "Thinking of her as a woman would be a mistake," is the warning given about her character, Mallory Kane, a top-notch secret agent whose been framed, betrayed, and is dead-set on revenge. The casts contains Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Antonio Banderas, but spoiler alert none are a match for Carano's raw power and lightning-fast speed. Soderbergh directs.
Nine to Five (1980) This broad comedy centers on women who kick ass at work in another way. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton play three women who begrudgingly work for a sexist and lecherous boss (Dabney Coleman) who takes credit for their best work, and attempts to bully and blackmail one into an affair. When he pushes too far these ladies push back by kidnapping him and covertly taking over the company. effecting change and secretly shattering the glass ceiling. But how long can having your boss trussed up at home last? Colin Higgins directs.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012) Maybe you're raising an eyebrow on this choice, but one thing I learned from pop princess Katy Perry's concert documentary is what a hard-working woman she is. This doc produced by the people behind Project Runway and Top Chef chronicles Perry's journey from the cradle to the stage intercut with spectacular song numbers from her California Dreams Tour. You see Perry prepping, planning, working off her fast food addiction, doing costume fittings, rehearsals, meet and greets, and the show itself all while desperately trying to find time to spend with her oft-far flung husband Russell Brand. I raved about this movie upon its initial release, and watching it the other day, I got caught up all over again. As Perry's struggling with the heartbreak of her failing marriage, we witness what "The show must go on" means as she pockets her pain and plasters on a massive smile so as not to disappoint the thousands of fans who have gathered to see the pop star that inspires them. This is a concert doc that demands to be enjoyed. Give it a shot.