What’s New on Netflix: 1/4/2015

With nearly 7,000 films available on Netflix, picking something to watch can become an anxiety inducing ordeal. If you’re anything like us, you’ll scroll through every genre without finding anything you’re really in the mood for. Your “My List” would better off titled “Things I Might Watch, Eventually,” luckily, MoviefiedNYC is here to help. Here’s our pick of the best films that were recently released on Netflix Instant Streaming.

Dir: Robert Zemeckis, Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Paul Sanchez

Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks teamed up again in 2000 after sweeping the Oscars in 1994 with Forrest Gump to make Cast Away, the story of a Fed Ex employee who tries to survive in seclusion on a remote island after being involved in plane crash over the ocean. The film explores the physical psychological toll on Chuck Nolan (Hanks) as he fights to survive and to stay sane in the face of intense hardship and loneliness. Some iconic moments from the film include Nolan’s euphoria when he finally manages to start a fire, and his unlikely friendship with a bloodstained volleyball named Wilson. Hanks, showing impressive commitment to his character, put on 50 pounds before shooting the film. After shooting all the scenes that take place in the civilized world, the crew took a year long break so that Hanks could lose all the weight and let his hair grow in order to look like a true castaway.

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Dir: Terry Gilliam, Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Tobey Maguire

Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel does its best to encapsulate the drug addled weirdness of its source material, and both have become cult classics. The film follows Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), Thompson’s fictionalized version of himself, and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) on an epic drug bender in Las Vegas. However the film does anything but romanticize their hardcore drug use as the viewer watches the main characters hit a grotesque rock bottom over the course of the film’s 2 hour run time. Gilliam visually represents the characters perpetual drug trip with dazzling neon, an always mobile camera, and special effects that bend and morph the scenery as scene through Duke’s eyes. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is like a drug trip in itself. 

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Dir: William Friedkin, Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

 This fast paced thriller took home Oscars for best picture, best director, best screenplay, and best editing, as well as a best actor Oscar for Gene Hackman in a notable early performance. Hackman plays Popeye Doyle, a  New York cop whose actions become progressively more questionable as the film progresses. Doyle is the prototypical bad cop: aggressive, bigoted, with a general refusal to play by the rules that makes the character interesting if morally reprehensible as he goes after the toughest criminals, always getting the right results. The French Connection was shot on sight in New York as much as possible, making use of small handheld cameras that give the cinematography a realistic, documentary quality. All that is combined with one of the best chase scenes in cinema history, ensuring that this film remains a thrill to watch even over 40 years later.

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Mean Girls (2004)

Dir: Mark Waters, Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Jonathan Bennett, Rachel McAdams


Mean Girls is Tina Fey’s first and only screenplay before she began writing for SNL and eventually 30 Rock, but her comedic sensibilities work just as well on the big screen as they do on the small screen. Fey’s quotable and witty dialogue drives a film that dissects the brutal, clique-driven world of high school girls. Lohan plays Cady Heron, who spent the majority of her childhood home schooled in Africa, making her the ultimate outsider. The film follows Cady as she attempts to navigate high school life after being adopted by the school’s most exclusive clique. Mean Girls is one of the smartest teen movies in recent memory thanks to Tina Fey’s astutely observant and well written screenplay.

Dir: Claudia Myers, Starring: Emmanuelle Chiriqui, Michelle Monaghan, Pablo Schreiber

 This politically relevant character study portrays Army Staff Sergeant Maggie Swann (Michelle Monaghan) as she struggles with civilian life upon returning home from Afghanistan. Among the complications in her domestic life are negotiating her relationship with her young son, to whom she is practically a stranger, and her ex-husband (Ron Livingston), and a burgeoning romance with an auto mechanic (Manolo Cardona). Director Claudia Myers has plenty of experience working with the military from a documentary point of view, and she gives a realistic portrayal of live on base. This film is an important and moving story of the challenges that face soldiers, especially women, upon returning home. 

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—Wil Barlow

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