5 Killer Movies From Last Year to Watch on Netflix Today
Forget the new releases and look for the great stuff you missed from 2014.
The hunt for things to watch on Netflix marches on. The streaming video service, which has gained enormous accolades for its original television content this year, is still the place to go for movie night. Redbox only gives you a night. Amazon and Instant are ridiculously expensive for new releases. And classic video stores are harder to find than Grandma's eyeglasses.
That leaves us with Netflix. And they do a good job collecting under the radar selections movie-wise. The site still hasn't stepped up its new release game, but if you're patient, they do reward subscribers with great flicks eventually.
The concept of "New Releases" is still alive and well. Blockbuster used to line its outer walls with them and the category is always the first everyone clicks. But there's little point doing that on Netflix. Chasing new releases is not the way. It's better to go back to critics' lists from 2014 and years before. Dig around for those smaller-name films that nobody saw. Trust in sites like Metacritic and, to a lesser degree, Rotten Tomatoes, for critic scores and reviews. Whatever you do, don't pay attention to those starred rankings on Netflix.
With that in mind, let's go back to 2014. Netflix has a big number of great flicks from last year. Here are some of the best:
One of my favorite movies of 2014, Nightcrawler is the year's ickiest, most scandalous film. And Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of his career as wide-eyed, intensely focused psychopath. He plays Lou Bloom, a thief who discovers a new way to make money: by filming accident aftermaths and selling the footage to the local news. The business is nightcrawling and Bloom becomes a master at it, by any means possible. The film is beautifully shot, by director Dan Gilroy, perfectly acted, and full of wicked satire, tearing down the sensationalistic culture of today's "news" media.
Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens is unrecognizable in The Guest as "David," an ex-soldier who stops by to pay his respects to the family of one of his fallen comrades. But David is harboring big secrets, and, although his sexy smile buys him a lot of trust, his true nature begins to reveal itself. He's staggeringly violent, beating up high schoolers who give the family trouble, but he doesn't stop there. The Guest is destined to be a cult classic. Blessed with a stylized soundtrack and over-the-top performances, it's heavily influenced by movies like Drive and slasher films like Halloween.
The Skeleton Twins
The best suicide comedy of 2014, The Skeleton Twins does deal with some heavy material, but it's balanced well by Hader and Wiig, who play estranged siblings who reunite after Milo (Hader) tries to kill himself. Milo goes to live with his twin sister Maggie (Wiig) in their hometown and quickly reunites with an old flame while tolerating Maggie's idiot husband. Slowly, the film reveals why brother and sister separated to begin with and they come to love each other again. It's a different kind of dysfunctional family drama thanks mainly to Hader and Wiig, who have several amazingly hilarious scenes that will make you die laughing. But the drama works as well.
Beyond the Lights
Shockingly, this movie, about a famous pop star and her romance with a cop, works. And it's much better than The Bodyguard, although nowhere near as hyped. Beyond the Lights stars the gorgeous Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Noni, a young pop diva on the cusp of releasing her new album. The world is hers, but Noni is depressed and she meets Kaz (Parker) at her lowest point. They begin a tentative friendship, but Noni is pressured from all sides and Kaz is wary of her paparazzi-filled lifestyle and sexy performances. But a romance develops, and it's huge fun seeing how Kaz fits into Noni's life. For anyone who dreams of marrying Rihanna, see this one first.
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney
From Australia comes one of the best horror films of 2014. The Babadook does have a silly name, but trust me, this is one movie you want to see. It features an all-time great child performance by Noah Wiseman as Samuel. The little boy finds a very weird pop-up book called Mister Babadook and is soon experiencing terrifying visions his mother can't do anything to stop.