With an expansive and ever-changing catalog of movies and TV shows, it can be difficult making the most of your Netflix Instant subscription. And so we here at Cinema Blend offer this biweekly column, which highlights some of the enticing titles now streaming that have ties to the latest theatrical releases.
This week, in honor of Lawless, The Possession, and Bachelorette, we've lined up some hard-hitting crime dramas, spooky supernatural thrillers, and deeply funny female-fronted comedies.
Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy head a remarkable ensemble cast that includes Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain and Gary Oldman, to unravel the incredible story of the Bondurant brothers, Franklin County's most badass bootleggers who took a stand against corrupt law enforcement in Prohibition-era Virginia. John Hillcoat directs.
While LaBeouf is the protagonist of this captivating crime drama, Hardy's growling performance is the one that steals the show. The biopic is a genre made for tour de force performances, and coupled with a true crime tale, these flicks launched their leading men to new heights of fame and acclaim.
Bronson (2008) Before Tom Hardy was stealing scenes in Christopher Nolan's Inception or terrorizing Gotham in The Dark Knight Rises, he broke through with Nicolas Winding Refn's ultra-violent depiction of the life of career criminal Michael Gordon Peterson—aka Charles Bronson—who was dubbed Britain's "most violent prisoner." Burly, bald with a dapper mustache and a repellant yet riveting bravado, Hardy tackled the role of a man who saw brutality as an art form.
Mesrine: Part 2: Public Enemy #1 (2008) Vincent Cassel revels in the ghoulish glee of the gangster lifestyle in the second portion of the two-part biopic about the life of French folk hero Jacques Mesrine. (Sadly, Mesrine: Part 1: Killer Instinct is not currently streaming.) A killer, bank robber and—as the title proclaims—public enemy number one, Mesrine was hotly sought after by the authorities, while the French public fell for his intoxicating charisma. Cassell shoulders the tale of a gangster who begins to buy into his own legend with an unmistakable relish, blending his uniquely dark charm with an electric sense of danger that won him critical accolades along with a César (the French equivalent of an Oscar) for Best Actor. Jean-François Richet directs.
Capote (2005) While Mesrine and Bronson are films about criminals who oozed testosterone and blood lust, this selection centers on a more genteel man whose attraction to a murderer resulted in his arguably his greatest work and most horrific betrayal. Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as Truman Capote, the sly writer with an urbane wit that found himself out of his depths when researching the murder case of the Clutters, a family of four killed in their beds of their Kansas home in 1959. What started out as an article for The New Yorker developed into a dark obsession with one of The Clutters' killers. Hoffman's deft spins from the beguiling socialite to a man obsessed earned him rousing praise as well as his only Oscar win to date. Bennett Miller directs.
Reportedly based on a true story, this horror-thriller focuses on a young girl who becomes possessed by an evil spirit after buying a mysterious box at a garage sale. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick co-star; Ole Bornedal directs.
As Halloween approaches, more and more horror will be unleashed on theaters, but this week, let's follow in the dark path of The Possession by focusing on supernatural terror that invades the home. Be they evil spirits, sprites or the ghosts of the damned, these freaky features reveal that the things that go bump in the night are not to be toyed with.
Insidious (2010) When a household accident knocks their young son into a coma, the boys parents can't imagine anything worse. But upon his return from the hospital, strange things begin to happen. Soon, the family is forced to confront a powerful spirit is taking over the body of their boy for its own evil ends. Saw director James Wan employs old-school practical effects to give this horror offering a distinct style of dread. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011) Forced to move into a new home with her father and his new girlfriend, little Sally feels very lonely…until she meets the little creatures who lurk in the shadows. But when her new playmates turn on her, she struggles to convince the adults they are real and coming to get her! Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce co-star. Troy Nixey directs; Guillermo del Toro produces.
The Gravedancers (2006) As kids we're taught to be respectful of cemeteries, but this was a lesson lost on the reunited friends at the center of this low-budget horror movie. Following the funeral of an old pal, the mourning group buries their grief in a drunken haze that inspires them to frolic and dance on some graves, unleashing three ghosts hell-bent on teaching them a deadly lesson. Dominic Purcell and Clare Kramer co-star; Mike Mendez directs.
Following in the tradition Bridesmaids set down, this raunchy female-fronted comedy proves it's not only men who behave badly before wedding bells chime. Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson and Adam Scott co-star; writer-director Leslye Headland helms.
Between Bachelorette and last week's release of For a Good Time Call…, moviegoers have their pick of funny girls gone wild. But what's most rewarding about both these pics is the cheeky but thoughtful look each takes at the complicated push and pull nature of female friendship. Few productions have managed to get the balance right, but the titles below nail it. Plus two are among the best high school movies set to screen!
Mean Girls (2004) Tina Fey penned and co-stars in this modern comedy classic that centers on a new girl in town's rollercoaster ride through the highs and lows of high school cliques, parties, rumors and peer pressure. Lindsey Lohan stars as a girl who loves math and has no sense of fashion until she befriends queen bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams), the leader of the ultra popular Plastics. And with solid performances from its leads as well as superb supporting players Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried and Bachelorette's Lizzy Caplan, this comedy manages to be madly funny and surprisingly profound. Mark Waters directs.
Clueless (1995) Long before Regina George there was Cher Horowitz, the benevolent queen bee of Amy Heckerling's spunky modern adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Emma. As a privileged white girl living it up in California, Cher feels its her duty to help the less fortunate, which means befriending a painfully unhip new girl and giving her a drab to fab makeover. But when the two starting crushing on the same guy, things get "way harsh." Alicia Silverstone stars; Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd and Stacey Dash lend unforgettable support in this iconic teen comedy.
Parks and Recreation (2009) Centering on plucky aspiring politician Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), this celebrated sitcom shines in part because of the incredible chemistry its ensemble shares. Leslie is remarkably ambitious, but nonetheless loves her friends—from her bacon and brunette-loving boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) to her levelheaded and wry bff Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones)--with a fierce abandon, rewarding their patience with insanely thoughtful and specially catered gifts and undying—though sometimes overdramatic—loyalty. Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Rob Lowe and Bachelorette's Adam Scott co-star. Seasons 1-4 now streaming.