Well, here we go again. Another month gone by, another round of binging and purging from Netflix’s streaming catalog. It’s never easy going through the movies due to be culled, but this month, like last, continues the trend of “it could always be worse.”
And, really, it could be. Netflix has gotten far better in recent months about not completely turning over its streaming library every 30 days than it has been for years. The balance sheets are tipped decidedly in the streaming platform’s favor, gaining much more than it loses, and that’s even beside the fact that most people are still probably scrambling to catch up with Roma (2018) after winning so big at the Oscars last week. The result is a comparatively small pile of movies that, while we of course will mourn their passing, are at least being replaced by some worthy successors this time around.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Nobody’s saying that the recent live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is better than the classic animated film that was unprecedentedly nominated for Best Picture in the early 1990s. The simple fact of the matter is that there it’s hardly worth comparing the two despite being remakes. They each have different takes on their scripted material, have different ideas about the spectacle of the story and feel surprisingly distinct from another as a result.
At the same time, that’s not to say that the latter movie is not a worthwhile watch in its own right. The updated ideas about a thinking girl in retrograde France is a welcome addition, as is Disney’s admittedly stuttering attempt to introduce LGBTQ characters into their movies. The songs all go on for a bit too long, yes, but they sure as Hell nailed the important ones (with a special shoutout to The Mob Song, which featured the chilling addition of the line “there’s a beast running wild, there’s no question, / but I fear the wrong monster’s released”). And, overall, Netflix will be all the poorer for having lost this movie.
The Breakfast Club (1985) – The 80’s was a genuinely great time for movies. Granted, there was a sharp division between “adult” and “kid” movies that frustrates me to no end, but this particular decade was so good at producing so many different kinds of movies that there was guaranteed to always be something for everybody. You had the booming blockbuster market that produced the likes of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). You had the growing foreign market making films like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and The Killer (1989). And, of course, you had the comedies.
Although clearly invested in the real lives of teenagers in a way that few movies before Clerks (1994) were, the dramatic nuances and characterizations in this movie were capably offset by a deft sense of humor. Things never got too dark or too heavy, although a few moments certainly got close, because there was always something lighter and more enjoyable to keep things moving along at a well enough pace. Between that, the kids and particularities of their split home and school life, it’s probably the most quintessentially 80’s movie this side of Wall Street (1987).
The Cider House Rules (1999) – Although it didn’t quite make the grade when counting down the ten best movies of 1999, there’s no denying the staying power and emotional complexity of this period drama that entwines the social issues of orphans and abortions together in this movie adapted from one of the lesser works of the monumentally talented John Irving. Granted, this is no A Prayer for Owen Meany, my favorite of his novels, but, at the same time, it is mercifully not a repeat of Simon Birch (the ill-fated adaptation of that novel that was so dishearteningly terrible that the author himself sued to have his name removed from the project and all of the characters names changed).
Although something of the litheness in Irving’s prose is admittedly lost in the adaptation, it keeps much of the narrative heft and complex characterizations that mark is work more broadly. Such have made classics of The World According to Garp (previously adapted to film in 1982 with Robin Williams in the titular role) and the aforementioned Owen Meany, and it works just as well here with Cider House. A sharp script and a just as capable cast round out the production, and make it more than worth the time of any cinephile with a Netflix subscription.
Ghostbusters (1984) – First off: don’t worry too much about this one. It’ll be back. It always comes back. In fact, we went through this exact same song and dance six months ago: the last time that Ghostbusters was pulled from the streaming service. It never stays gone for all that long – it’s much too popular for that.
But, for now, this classic supernatural exterminator comedy is exiting from the streaming service. And though it’s almost certainly going to come back – and soon – for now, there aren’t too many opportunities left to see it streamed directly into your living room. It seems like everybody could use a good laugh these days, what with the state of politics being what they are and the Academy’s sobering decision to award Green Book (2018) of all things Best Picture at the Oscars last week, this gut-bustingly funny movie may just be the ticket to cheer you up.
Role Models (2008) – Anybody who’s read my reviews in any depth will understand by now that I’m not much of a comedy guy. I love to laugh as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong (in fact, read what I said a few paragraphs ago about Ghostbusters and you’ll realize that I’m not the joyless ghoul that my friends sometime like to paint me as). I just find so many comedies – the modern ones especially – lacking in any real narrative heft or quality. They just have jokes – which are fine – but never really seem to be worth the time it takes to get them.
Role Models, however, is a comedy I can get behind. Maybe it’s because it actually if funnier than the average chuckle-fest out there. Maybe it’s because Paul Rudd is able to do so much with the meager material given to him. Maybe it’s because I joined my college’s Medieval Combat Club back in the day and, LARPing aside, the mechanics of the two activities were pretty similar. The end result, no matter the cause, is that it more than warrants a recommendation, especially for those of you who do find themselves drawn to lighter fare.