Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
It’s that time again. The full list of movies coming to Netflix next month has been released, which means it’s time for us to sift through the titles and pick out everything that you should prioritize. This batch includes a few bonafide masterpieces, some binge-worthy television, and a few tremendous bad movies that demand to be seen.
Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3, and Jaws: The Revenge
If you haven’t revisited Jaws recently, consider this a golden opportunity. And if you’ve somehow managed to see it, consider this the moment you ran out of excuses. Steven Spielberg’s third feature (after the TV movie Duel and the often overlooked Sugarland Express) is still a masterpiece, still one of the best movies ever made, and quite possibly still the finest example of a brilliant filmmaker being handed lessons (an awful source novel, a notoriously difficult shoot) and making lemonade. It’s required viewing. And re-viewing. The sequels are not, but they do deserve at glance. Jaws 2 is a serviceable enough thriller, a decent killer shark movie that lives in the shadow of the best killer shark movie of all time. Jaws 3 essentially has the same plot as Jurassic World and it’s awful, full of shots composed for the 3D theatrical release that look exceedingly goofy at home. It is almost bad enough to enjoy. Jaws: The Revenge, though, is one of the great bad movies of the ’80s, a lazy, hackneyed, thoroughly silly piece of garbage that is so far from the original movie that it beggars belief. You must see it. You must endure it. You will want to talk about it.
Man on Wire
Remember last year’s The Walk, which came and went from theaters in the blink of an eye? Probably not. Nobody saw The Walk. However, you really need to see Man on Wire, the Oscar-winning documentary that inspired it. James Marsh’s non-fiction film is thrilling before it is moving, telling the story of Philippe Petit, the daredevil tightrope walker who set out to walk a high-wire strung between the World Trade Center Towers in 1974. Marsh structures his film like a great heist movie, showing us step-by-step how Petit assembles his crew for his hugely illegal stunt, but it all leads to the grand finale, where Petit’s walk is showcased as a glorious piece of temporary art. It’s dangerous and beautiful and impossible to forget.
Penny Dreadful Season 3
I haven’t seen the third and final season of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful yet, but I can vouch for the first two seasons (which are already streaming on Netflix) and can’t wait to catch up with the third. This series isn’t just a collection of references to familiar names and movies – it is a horror series that is deeply in love with the characters it recruits into its cast and the storylines is borrows. Fans of classic horror literature, Universal’s monsters, and classic Hammer movies will find much to love in this series, which is pretty much Buffy the Vampire Slayer wearing slick, gothic, more grown-up clothing. This sexy, weird, violent, deranged, and beautifully shot show is a genre fan’s dream.
Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II drama has its detractors (yes, those modern day bookends probably should have been cut), but this remains one of the best movies of its kind. War movies are, by default, action movies and that means they are, by default, inherently thrilling. Spielberg does everything he can to defuse that image by piling on horror after horror, focusing on the pain of every wound, the suddenness and brutality of so many deaths, and the crippling fear that can overcome even the bravest man. Even when Saving Private Ryan enters a more typical WWII men-on-a-mission formula after the opening half hour, the focus remains on the ground, in the mood, amongst the ordinary men who have learned to live with death each and every day. It’s a necessary recoloring of a familiar template.
The Wicker Man
If you’ve only seen YouTube compilations collecting the most baffling moments from Neil LaBute’s 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, it’s time for you to check out the entire thing. Nicolas Cage’s performance feels like a carefully orchestrated trainwreck – it’s the kind of straight-faced insanity that only a brilliant actor, making carefully calculated decisions, can create. LaBute’s direction works hand-in-hand with his leading man’s battiness to craft a tonal nightmare. The Wicker Man is never scary, but it is frequently silly, filled with imagery that may have felt creepy on the page, but is genuinely hilarious in execution. I will forget dozens of good movies before I forget Cage stealing a bike at gunpoint from a defiant cultist. I will forget a few genuinely great movies before I forget the bear costume. I will forget the face of my mother before I forget the BEEEEES!
Considering its box office haul from earlier this year, chances are strong that you’ve already seen Zootopia and already know that it is the best movie to come out of Disney Animation in years. And since you’ve seen it, you probably already know that it’s very funny and surprisingly smart, directly tackling issues of race and in a year where that conversation has re-entered the spotlight like we haven’t seen in decades. Zootopia‘s progressive, open-minded politics are worthy of discussion, but they also serve a delightfully dense and surprisingly complex central mystery, a conspiracy that makes this a cousin to noir masterpieces like Chinatown. Just with, you know, talking animals.