You’ve had your Valentine’s Day dinner, shared some chocolate-dipped delights, and exchanged presents. Now you’re home with your significant other, and you’re looking for something to watch while you cuddle, whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears, and gradually slip into the mood for more intimate activities (like Scrabble). Look no further, you beautiful, darling lovebirds, for we have compiled a list of 50 Certified Fresh and Fresh movies and TV series perfect for the occasion, whether you’re in need of something silly, steamy, sad, or sweet. See below for some excellent Valentine’s Day choices on Netflix.


1. 45 Years (2015) 97%

(Photo by Sundance Selects)

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star in Andrew Haigh’s drama about a married couple dealing with long-simmering tensions on the cusp of their 45th wedding anniversary.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

2. The African Queen (1951) 96%

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn star in John Huston’s classic, Oscar-winning romantic adventure film about a WWI steam ship captain operating in Eas Africa who falls in love with the missionary’s daughter he’s agreed to transport back to civilization.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon

 


3. Ain't Them Bodies Saints (2013) 77%

(Photo by Steve Dietl/IFC Films)

Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck star in this Certified Fresh drama about an imprisoned bank robber and the woman and child he left behind.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 


4. Atonement (2007) 83%

(Photo by Focus Features)

James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, and Saoirse Ronan star in Joe Wright’s Oscar-winning adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel about a young girl who sabotages the relationship between her older sister and the man she loves.

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5. Beauty and the Beast (2017) 71%

(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Bill Condon’s live-action Disney adaptation of the studio’s own take on the classic tale of a young woman held captive by an angry beast who was once a prince.

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6. Before Midnight (2013) 98%

(Photo by Despina Spyrou/Sony Classics)

In the third installment of Richard Linklater’s enduring love story, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are married and hoping to recapture the spark that first brought them together.

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7. Begin Again (2013) 83%

(Photo by Andrew Schwartz/Weinstein Company)

John Carney’s second musical romance stars Keira Knightley as a newly single songwriter who begins an unlikely friendship with the record exec (Mark Ruffalo) who volunteers to help record her album independently.

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8. Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) 89%

(Photo by Sundance Selects)

Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos star in this Certified Fresh, Palme d’Or winning coming-of-age drama about a teenager who falls in love with an older art student.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 


9. Blue Jay (2016) 91%

(Photo by The Orchard)

Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson star in this romantic drama about a long-separated couple who reconnect after a chance encounter.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOW, iTunes

 


10. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) 89%

Arguably the most celebrated — surely the most widely recognized — Audrey Hepburn film. We just prefer to pretend all the Mickey Rooney stuff doesn’t exist.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

 


11. Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) 78%

(Photo by Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures)

Renée Zellweger reprises her role as the titular singleton, who must figure out who the father of her child is after a pair of trysts results in a pregnancy.

Stream Now | Also on iTunes

 


12. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) 79%

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, and Hugh Grant star in this comedy about a brash thirtysomething woman who decides to shape up and meets a couple of eligible bachelors.

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13. Bright Star (2009) 83%

(Photo by Apparition)

Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish star in Jane Campion’s biopic focusing on the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne during the last years of Keats’ life.

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14. Carol (2015) 94%

(Photo by Wilson Webb/Weinstein Company)

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara star in Todd Haynes’ period drama about an illicit affair between a lonely housewife and a younger woman.

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15. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 98%

(Photo by Tyler Golden/The CW)

Rachel Bloom stars in this Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning CW musical comedy series about a career woman who leaves her job and Manhattan lifestyle to find love in California. Watch seasons 1 and 2.

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16. Definitely, Maybe (2008) 70%

(Photo by Universal Pictures)

In this romantic comedy that essentially inspired How I Met Your Mother, Ryan Reynolds stars as a man who recounts his past conquests (played by Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz) to his daughter when his impending divorce makes her insufferably inquisitive.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

 


17. Drinking Buddies (2013) 84%

(Photo by Magnolia Pictures)

Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jason Sudeikis, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston star in this comedy about two co-workers at a brewery who share an attraction despite being in relationships with other people.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 


18. Emma (1996) 85%

Gwyneth Paltrow stars in this adaptation of the Jane Austen novel about a well-meaning woman who takes it upon herself to play matchmaker to those in her life, unaware that she has an admirer of her own.

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19. Holding the Man (2015) 81%

(Photo by Strand Releasing)

Based on Timothy Conigrave’s memoir of the same name, this independent drama from Australia centers on two men whose romance becomes the foundation of their gay rights activist work.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon

 


20. The Incredible Jessica James (2017) 89%

(Photo by Netflix)

Jessica Williams and Chris O’Dowd star in this Netflix original comedy about an aspiring playwright who bonds with a man as they both attempt to deal with painful breakups.

Stream Now

 


21. Jane The Virgin 100%

(Photo by )

Twenty-something virgin Jane has her life turned upside-down when she is accidentally inseminated with her boss’s sperm in this Certified Fresh dramedy with telenovela twists and a strong ensemble cast. Seasons 1 to 3 are available.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

 


22. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) 95%

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan leads a village cricket squad in a match against their ruthless British occupiers in this beloved 2001 Oscar-nominated epic.

Stream Now

 


 23. Leap Year (2010) 93%

(Photo by Strand Releasing)

This drama from Mexico centers on a promiscuous but lonely journalist who engages in a steamy, complicated affair with a sadist.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 


24. Like Water for Chocolate (1992) 87%

(Photo by Miramax)

Based on the novel of the same name by Laura Esquival, Alfonso Arau’s magical romantic tale centers on the forbidden love between a man and a young woman who can make others feel what she feels through the food that she cooks.

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25. Margarita, With a Straw (2014) 83%

(Photo by Wolfe Releasing)

Kalki Koechlin stars in this Indian drama about a woman struggling with both cerebral palsy and matters of the heart.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 


26. Master of None 93%

(Photo by Netflix)

In this Certified Fresh Netflix original comedy, Aziz Ansari (who also writes and directs) stars as a 30-year-old actor navigating life and love in New York City.

Stream Now

 


27. Meet the Patels (2014) 87%

(Photo by Independent Television Service)

Ravi Patel’s Certified Fresh documentary chronicles his family’s persistent attempts to find him a spouse.

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28. Middle of Nowhere (2012) 88%

(Photo by AFFRM)

David Oyelowo stars in this drama about a med student whose life is upended when her husband is incarcerated, from Selma director Ava DuVernay.

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29. Midnight in Paris (2011) 93%

(Photo by Roger Arpajou/Sony Pictures Classics)

Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and a slew of stars breathe life into Woody Allen’s dreamy romantic comedy about an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to an idealized version of the city in the 1920s.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

 


30. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) 93%

(Photo by Niko Tavernise/Focus Features)

Wes Anderson’s coming-of-age film stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as a couple of pre-teens who fall in love and run away from home together.

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31. My Golden Days (2015) 90%

(Photo by Magnolia Pictures)

This coming-of-age drama follows a French teenager’s troubled family life and misadventures in the Soviet Union.

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32. No Tomorrow 88%

(Photo by Bettina Strauss/The CW)

Tori Anderson and Joshua Sasse star in this CW series about a Seattle woman who gets involved with a man who believes the end of the world is near, and decides to join him in completing their bucket lists together.

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33. Nymphomaniac: Volume I (2014) 76%

(Photo by Magnolia Pictures)

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgård star in Lars von Trier’s provocative tale of a woman who recounts her violently sexual past to a man nursing her back to health after saving her from a brutal attack in an alley.

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34. Omar (2013) 90%

(Photo by Adopt Films)

This drama from Palestine follows a baker and moonlighting freedom fighter who’s coerced into informing on a friend when he’s wrongly arrested for the murder of an Israeli soldier.

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35. On Body and Soul (2017) 90%

(Photo by Netflix)

Netflix picked up this Certified Fresh drama from Hungary about two people who discover they share the same dream every night and attempt to recreate the emotions of that dream in reality.

Stream Now

 


36. Our Souls at Night (2017) 89%

(Photo by Netflix)

Robert Redford and Jane Fonda star in this romantic drama about a widow and a widower living next door to each other who fin a connection as they enter their twilight years.

Stream Now

 


37. Palm Trees in the Snow (2015) 86%

This Spanish period drama follows a woman who discovers a letter that reveals details about her father’s journey from his island home to Spanish Guinea.

Stream Now

 


38. The Reader (2008) 63%

(Photo by Weinstein Company)

Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes star in Stephen Daldry’s drama about a young man who falls for an older woman who turns out to be a former Nazi prison guard.

Stream Now | Also on AmazoniTunes


39. A Royal Night Out (2015) 74%

(Photo by Nick Wall/Atlas Distribution)

Sarah Gadon and Emily Watson star in this period dramedy about Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret’s adventures out on the town during V Day festivities in 1945.

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40. Rust and Bone (2012) 82%

(Photo by Sony Pictures Classics)

Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts star in Jacques Audiard’s drama about a single father who falls in love with a whale trainer after she suffers a tragic accident.

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41. Sense8 86%

(Photo by Netflix)

This Emmy-nominated Netflix original series follows eight strangers from around the world who discover they can psychically travel between each other’s bodies, allowing them to experience each other’s lives. Watch seasons 1 and 2.

Stream Now

 


42. She's Gotta Have It 78%

(Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

Based on Spike Lee’s acclaimed 1986 debut feature film of the same name (which is also available to stream), this Netflix original series centers on a single woman navigating a trio of tricky romances and attempting to balance it with the rest of her personal and professional life.

Stream Now

 


43.Sing Street (2016) 95%

(Photo by Weinstein Company)

John Carney’s Golden Globe-nominated Certified Fresh musical drama centers on a Dublin teen in 1985 who starts a band to impress the girl he has a crush on.

Stream Now | Amazon, FandangoNOW, iTunes

 


44. Southside With You (2016) 92%

(Photo by Roadside Attractions)

Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter star as the young Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson in a romantic drama that follows the couple around Chicago on their first date.

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45. Suite Française (2014) 76%

(Photo by Bruno Calvo/Weinstein Company)

Michelle Williams and Matthias Schoenaerts star in this period romance about a French woman who falls in love with a German soldier when his regiment takes over her town during WWII.

Stream Now

 


46. Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) 84%

(Photo by Philippe Bosse/Netflix)

Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan star in this unique drama about a couple living in the icy wilderness of Canada who embark on a perilous journey south when a stalker threatens their lives.

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47. The Way He Looks (2014) 93%

(Photo by Strand Releasing)

This Brazilian coming-of-age drama revolves around a blind teenager struggling for independence who slowly falls in love with a new classmate.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 


48. Wedding Crashers (2005) 76%

(Photo by New Line Cinema)

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn star in this romantic comedy about a pair of cynical divorce attorneys who spend their time crashing weddings until they both meet their match in two very different women.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, FandangoNOWiTunes

 


49. While You Were Sleeping (1995) 81%

Sandra Bullock stars in this romantic comedy about a lonely tollbooth operator who falls in love with one of her customers and is mistaken for his fiancée when she intervenes in a tragic accident that leaves him comatose.

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50. And Your Mother Too (2001) 92%

Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, and Maribel Verdu star in this coming-of-age road trip drama about a pair of friends who take off on an adventure with a cousin’s estranged wife after their girlfriends leave town.

Stream Now | Also on Amazon, iTunes

 

When the first of January hits, chances are you’ll be stuffed with holiday goodies, full of various meats and/or cheeses, and all partied out. You’ll also probably be looking for something to watch as you recover from all the festivities. Luckily, Netflix is releasing a ton of new stuff, particularly on January 1, that should keep you entertained. See below for the full list of new movies, TV shows, and originals coming to Netflix in January.


January 1 – January 7

 

The Age of Shadows (2016) 100%

Song Kang-ho (The Host) and Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) star in South Korean director Kim Jee-woon’s (I Saw the Devil; The Good, the Bad, the Weird) period thriller about two men on opposite sides of Korea’s fight for independence from Japan.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


AlphaGo (2017) 100%

This documentary chronicles the drama leading up to the historic match-up between a human and an artificial intelligence playing against each other in the ancient Chinese strategy game of “Go.”

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


The Godfather (1972) 97%

Al Pacino and Marlon Brando lead an ensemble cast in Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s mob family epic, widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. All three chapters of the Godfather saga will be available to stream on January 1.

Available 1/1: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III


Apollo 13 (1995) 96%

Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon star in Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning historical drama about the ill-fated titular space mission, during which an on-board explosion forced three astronauts to abort a trip to the moon.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Strictly Ballroom (1992) 91%

Baz Luhrmann’s debut feature is an adaptation of his own stage production about a ballroom dancer with a unique vision and his struggle to compete and win a prestigious competition.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


The Truman Show (1998) 95%

Jim Carrey and Ed Harris star in this dramedy about a man who understandably freaks out when he discovers his entire life has been the center of a television production.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Midnight in Paris (2011) 93%

Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and a slew of stars breathe life into Woody Allen’s dreamy romantic comedy about an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to an idealized version of the city in the 1920s.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 91%

Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella stars Tim Robbins as a wrongly convicted accountant who befriends another inmate (Morgan Freeman) while serving his sentence.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Like Water for Chocolate (1992) 87%

Based on the novel of the same name by Laura Esquival, Alfonso Arau’s magical romantic tale centers on the forbidden love between a man and a young woman who can make others feel what she feels through the food that she cooks.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) 91%

Gene Wilder offers an iconic performance as Roald Dahl’s slightly nutty candy mogul, who welcomes a handful of children to his sweets factory with the intention of bequeathing his company to one of them.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) 89%

Arguably the most celebrated — surely the most widely recognized — Audrey Hepburn film. We just prefer to pretend all the Mickey Rooney stuff doesn’t exist.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Batman Begins (2005) 84%

Christian Bale and Michael Caine star in Christopher Nolan’s beloved reboot of the Batman mythology, a supremely effective but dark and brooding affair that set an ill-advised precedent for DC superhero movies to come.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


King Kong (2005) 84%

Naomi Watts and Jack Black star in Peter Jackson’s update on the original monster movie, about a giant ape on a remote island who is captured and brought back to civilization for the amusement of humans.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


The Italian Job (1969) 81%

Michael Caine stars in the original 1969 heist flick about a career criminal who takes on an eccentric team of accomplices for an elaborate robbery.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Lethal Weapon (1987) 80%

Mel Gibson and Danny Glover star as mismatched partners in this comedy about a pair of cops trying to take down a dangerous drug dealer. Its sequel will also be available to stream.

Available 1/1: Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2


Batman Returns (1992) 80%

For his cold, dark sequel to Batman, Tim Burton gave audiences not one, but two empathetic, pitiable villains: The Penguin (Danny DeVito) and the Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Stardust (2007) 77%

Based upon Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel and featuring an all-star cast, this fantasy follows a young man who embarks on a journey through a forbidden kingdom to prove his love to the girl of his dreams by presenting her with a fallen star.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Caddyshack (1980) 73%

Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Bill Murray star in Harold Ramis’s directorial debut, a beloved comedy about the unruly, unusual new members of an exclusive country club.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Wedding Crashers (2005) 76%

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn star in this romantic comedy about a pair of cynical divorce attorneys who spend their time crashing weddings until they both meet their match in two very different women.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) 73%

Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, and Hugh Laurie lend their voices to this DreamWorks animated film about a group of abnormal creatures who come to the aid of humanity when Earth is invaded by an alien robot.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Batman (1989) 71%

One of the most hyped movies in Hollywood history, Batman found director Tim Burton jettisoning the plots (if not the dark tone) of Bob Kane’s original comics, and utilizing set designs reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and freakish, brooding characters similar to… well, a Tim Burton movie.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Training Day (2001) 73%

Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke star in Antoine Fuqua’s gritty crime thriller about a rookie cop learning the ropes from a veteran narcotics detective with a decidedly questionable moral compass.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Definitely, Maybe (2008) 70%

In this romantic comedy that essentially inspired How I Met Your Mother, Ryan Reynolds stars as a man who recounts his past conquests (played by Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Rachel Weisz) to his daughter when his impending divorce makes her insufferably inquisitive.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011) 65%

Remember how innocent the Biebz was back in 2011, before all the tattoos and poopy-diaper pants? Watch this naively optimistic documentary about Ju-Bieb’s improbable rise to stardom from the gritty streets of Ontario to the echo chamber of YouTube and beyond.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Bring It On (2000) 64%

Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku star in this tongue-in-cheek look at the competitive high school cheerleading scene that was so acceptable it lead directly to an MCU gig for director Peyton Reed (Ant-Man).

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Love Actually (2003) 64%

Thanks in part to its luminous cast, which includes Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Andrew “CORRRRALL” Lincoln, Richard Curtis’ yuletide romantic comedy has become a seasonal cult favorite.

Available 1/1 on: Netflix


Rotten: Season 1 (2018) 86%

This Netflix original series examines the global scope and impact of some common food items, starting from the plate and following the trail of money and politics.

Available 1/5 on: Netflix


Episodes 80%

Showtime’s show business satire stars Matt LeBlanc as an exaggerated version of himself, tapped to play the lead in a new sitcom imported from the UK, and Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan as the put-upon husband-wife creators of said sitcom.

Available 1/6 on: Netflix


January 8 – January 14

 

The Conjuring (2013) 86%

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga star in this supernatural horror story based on true events about a family experiencing unexplained disturbances in their new home who call upon paranormal investigators for help.

Available 1/8 on: Netflix


Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) 87%

Kevin Hart and Ed Helms lend their voices to this animated adaptation of the popular children’s books about a couple of young pranksters who hypnotize their principal into believing he is a superhero.

Available 1/10 on: Netflix


Colony: Season 2 (2017) 100%

Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies star in this sci-fi drama about a family struggling to survive during an alien invasion.

Available 1/10 on: Netflix


January 15 – January 21

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) 92%

Matthew McConnaughey won an Oscar for his portrayal of unlikely AIDS activist Ron Woodroof in Jean-Marc Vallée’s drama about the Texas man who was diagnosed with HIV and took matters into his own hands to find treatments wherever he could.

Available 1/16 on: Netflix


Bad Day for the Cut (2017) 92%

This indie thriller centers on a farmer who embarks on a campaign for vengeance through the Irish criminal underworld after his mother is murdered.

Available 1/18 on: Netflix


Grace and Frankie: Season 4 (2018) 100%

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star in this Netflix original series about two women who are forced to move in together when their husbands come out as gay and leave them for one another.

Available 1/19 on: Netflix


January 22 – January 28

A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018) 67%

Will Forte and Domhnall Gleeson star in David Wain’s Netflix original film chronicling the rise and fall of humor magazine National Lampoon.

Available 1/26 on: Netflix


Dirty Money: Season 1 (2018) 100%

This Netflix original series from acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney takes an episode-by-episode look at various acts of corporate greed and misconduct.

Available 1/26 on: Netflix


One Day at a Time: Season 2 (2018) 100%

This Netflix original series remakes and recontextualizes a popular 1970s-1980s sitcom about a divorced mother raising two teenage daughters: this time, they’re Cuban.

Available 1/26 on: Netflix


January 29 – January 31

The Force (2017) 87%

This acclaimed documentary takes a look at the men and women who make up the Oakland Police Department, and the department’s effort to reform itself over a period of two years.

Available 1/29 on: Netflix


Cars 3 (2017) 69%

Owen Wilson returns to voice Lightning McQueen in the third installment of Pixar’s Cars franchise, in which Lightning struggles to stave off retirement and makes one last go at winning the Piston Cup.

Available 1/31 on: Netflix

As usual, Netflix and Amazon Prime released a whole bunch of new titles at the beginning of the month, so we’ve combed through them to bring you the best of the bunch, from a Christopher Nolan thriller and an animated treat to a horror classic, a modern Woody Allen triumph, and the first three Jurassic Park movies. Read on for the full list.


New on Netflix

 

The Iron Giant (1999) 96%

Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, and Harry Connick Jr. lend their voices to Brad Bird’s animated feature debut, about a large sentient robot who finds himself lost in a small Maine town in 1958 and befriends a young boy.

Available now on: Netflix


This Is Spinal Tap (1984) 95%

Another acclaimed directorial debut, this genre-defining Rob Reiner mockumentary follows an aging British metal band as they embark on a US tour.

Available now on: Netflix


Midnight in Paris (2011) 93%

Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and a slew of stars breathe life into Woody Allen’s dreamy romantic comedy about an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to an idealized version of the city in the 1920s.

Available now on: Netflix


Jurassic Park (1993) 92%

Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur extravaganza blew audiences away back in 1993, and Netflix is streaming it now, in addition to its two non-Jurassic World sequels.

Available now on Netflix: Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park III


Memento (2000) 93%

Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss star in Christopher Nolan’s breakout thriller about a man with short-term memory loss trying desperately to piece together the details of his wife’s murder.

Available now on: Netflix


Blazing Saddles (1974) 88%

Mel Brooks’ iconic western spoof stars Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as a sheriff and gunslinger who work together to save a small town from a greedy opportunist.

Available now on: Netflix


Hap and Leonard: Season 1 (2016) 88%

James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams star in this Sundance drama about the friendship between a draft dodger and a gay, black Vietnam vet during the 1980s.

Available now on: Netflix


Kung Fu Panda (2008) 87%

Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman lead an all-star voice cast in Dreamworks’ wildly successful animated tale about a lowly panda who becomes a martial arts master.

Available now on: Netflix


Chicago (2002) 86%

Rob Marshall’s Best Picture winner stars Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in an adaptation of the Broadway musical about a pair of dancers who meet in prison and utilize scandal for their own benefit.

Available now on: Netflix


The Omen (1976) 86%

Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star in this classic horror film about an upstanding London couple who discover their young son may be the Anti-Christ.

Available now on: Netflix


Anastasia (1997) 86%

Meg Ryan and John Cusack provide the voices for this animated take on the legend about a Russian duchess who escaped the massacre of her family and grew up as an orphan.

Available now on: Netflix


Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) 81%

Yet another remarkable directorial debut, Tamara Jenkins indie comedy stars Natasha Lyonne as a teen living in Los Angeles during the 1970s who bonds with her sexually liberated older cousin (Marisa Tomei).

Available now on: Netflix


Frailty (2002) 75%

The late Bill Paxton starred alongside Matthew McConaughey in his own directorial debut, a psychological thriller about two brothers who respond very differently to their serial killer father.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) 96%

Jemain Clement and Taika Waititi co-wrote, co-directed, and co-star in this hilarious Certified Fresh, Golden Tomato Award-winning mockumentary centered on four vampire roommates and their eccentric lifestyles.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Emma (1996) 85%

Gwyneth Paltrow stars in this adaptation of the Jane Austen novel about a well-meaning woman who takes it upon herself to play matchmaker to those in her life, unaware that she has an admirer of her own.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


New on FandangoNOW

 

Ida (2013) 96%

This stunning, Oscar-nominated black and white drama is the story a young woman on the verge of joining a convent who discovers a dark family secret.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Lore (2012) 94%

This drama follows a group of German children who undertake a perilous escape after their Nazi-affiliated parents are arrested by Allied troops.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


The Weekend (2013) 89%

Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star in this Certified Fresh drama about a feuding married couple who spend an eventful weekend in Paris.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010) 88%

This Certified Fresh documentary from Werner Herzog depicts everyday life in a village in Siberia.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


The Omen (1976) 86%

Gregory Peck and Lee Remick star in this classic horror film about an upstanding London couple who discover their young son may be the Anti-Christ.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Mesrine: Part II - Public Enemy 1 (2008) 81%

Vincent Cassel returns as the titular gangster, now in police custody and facing prison, who escapes and reinvents himself as public anti-hero with celebrity status.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Mesrine: Part 1 - Death Instinct (2008) 82%

Vincent Cassel stars in the first of two films about Jacques Mesrine, a former soldier in 1960s Paris who embraces the criminal lifestyle and quickly moves up the ladder.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


The Deep Blue Sea (2011) 80%

Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston star in Terence Davies romantic drama about a judge’s wife who begins an affair with a Royal Air Force pilot.

Available now on: FandangoNOW


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) 74%

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston star in this spinoff of the Harry Potter series about wizard Newt Scamander’s efforts to recapture mythical creatures let loose in 1920s New York as a greater threat looms on the horizon.

Available now on: FandangoNOW

This week on streaming video, we’ve got a nice combination of classics and recent hits, ranging from the latest winner from Netflix and a Certified Fresh doc about the stereotypical “gay voice” to one of Woody Allen’s recent hits, an action film starring Harrison Ford, and an Oscar-winning drama about divorce, among other things. Read on for details.


New on Netflix:

 

Master of None: Season 1 (2015) 100%

In Netflix’s latest Certified Fresh original offering, Aziz Ansari (who also writes and directs) stars as a 30-year-old actor navigating life and love in New York City.

Available now on: Netflix


Seymour: An Introduction (2014) 100%

Ethan Hawke directed this a documentary profile of concert pianist and teacher Seymour Bernstein.

Available now on: Netflix


Amour fou (2014) 88%

This Certified fresh period drama tells the story of writer Heinrich von Kleist and his attempt to get a society woman to join him in a suicide pact.

Available now on: Netflix


A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) 89%

Roy Andersson’s absurdist, borderline unclassifiable black comedy features several loosely-connected scenes about death — and they’re apt to transfix anyone in the market for something a little (ok, a lot) different.

Available now on: Netflix


Do I Sound Gay? (2014) 82%

In this documentary, director David Thorpe explores the nature of the stereotypical “gay voice.”

Available now on: Netflix


She's Lost Control (2014) 72%

This drama tells the tale of a sex surrogate whose life is thrown into disarray when she gets too close to one of her clients.

Available now on: Netflix


New on Amazon Prime

 

Midnight in Paris (2011) 93%

In Woody Allen’s wistful comedy, Owen Wilson stars as an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back an idealized 1920s Paris.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) 88%

Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep star in this Best Picture winner about a divorce and its after-effects.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Air Force One (1997) 78%

Wolfgang Petersen’s airborne thriller stars Harrison Ford as the commander in chief and Gary Oldman as the terrorist who hijacks his plane.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


Philadelphia (1993) 81%

Tom Hanks delivers an Oscar-winning performance alongside Denzel Washington in Jonathan Demme’s timely drama about an attorney with AIDS who takes his own firm to court for wrongful termination after he suspects one of his colleagues discovered his condition and prompted his firing.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


A League of Their Own (1992) 80%

Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, and Tom Hanks star in this fictionalized account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Available now on: Amazon Prime


New on Fandor

 

Innocence Unprotected (1968) 100%

Based on an unreleased Serbian film that was written by, directed by, and starred Yugoslavian gymnast Dragoljub Aleksic, this documentary presents the work alongside newsreel footage of Aleksic himself, as well as interviews with him and other cast members.

Available now on: Fandor


I'm Going Home (2001) 96%

In this drama from Portugese director Manoel de Oliveira, an aging stage actor becomes guardian of his grandson when he tragically loses his wife, his daughter, and his son-in-law in a car accident.

Available now on: Fandor


Araya (1959) 88%

This recently rediscovered 1959 drama takes a naturalistic approach to its story of menial laborers in Venezuela.

Available now on: Fandor


Available for Purchase

 

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) 99%

In this widely acclaimed stop-motion animated comedy, Shaun the Sheep encourages the rest of his flock to take a day off, which eventually leads to the disappearance of their owner into the big city. The sheep attempt to recover the farmer, and hilarity ensues.

Available now on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu

 

Indie classics, animated hits, well-reviewed dramas, and blockbuster comedies: Owen Wilson has done it all. This week, he makes a rare foray into action thriller territory opposite Pierce Brosnan in No Escape, so we knew this would be the perfect occasion to take a fond look back at some of the many critical highlights from a very prolific — and impressively varied —filmography. It’s time to pay tribute to the man who brought Marmaduke to life, Total Recall style!


 

 10. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) 69%

Darjeeling

Reuniting after the six-year layoff that followed The Royal Tenenbaums, frequent collaborators Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson paired up for 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, a typically quirky dramedy about three eccentric brothers (played by Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman) who struggle — not always entirely successfully — to reconnect by taking a train ride across India in order to reunite with their mother (Anjelica Huston). While a troubling number of critics felt Darjeeling found Anderson settling into a rut, the majority felt that even if he was treading somewhat familiar ground, he managed to do it with style. Calling it “Arguably Wes Anderson’s most compassionate, mature film,” Nick Rogers of Suite101 credited the film with “[dancing] around disconcerting what-ifs: If they weren’t your brothers and sisters, would you voluntarily befriend them, or do you tolerate quirks and annoyances because blood links you?”

Watch Trailer


 

9. Inherent Vice (2014) 73%

Inherent

It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say Wilson’s had an easy time of it with critics lately — his recent duds include Are You Here and She’s Funny That Way — but he’s also made his mark in a few well-reviewed releases, including a brief appearance in The Grand Budapest Hotel and a more substantial supporting role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s star-studded adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. Here, Wilson appears as Coy Harlingen, a man whose disappearance prompts his wife (Jena Malone) to hire the film’s P.I. protagonist (Joaquin Phoenix) to mount a search. The plot’s a whole lot messier than that — and critics seemed admittedly divided over just how successfully Anderson managed to wrestle it onto the screen — but even if they weren’t quite sure what to make of it, most enjoyed what they saw. “It is no exaggeration to say that this could become the new Big Lebowski,” wrote Helen O’Hara for GQ. “Something that will not just stand up to repeat viewings but positively reward every single rewatch of its twisted, lunatic glory.”

Watch Trailer


 

8. Cars (2006) 74%

Cars

At a comparatively paltry 74 percent on the Tomatometer, 2006’s Cars represented something of a critical setback for PIxar — but while the reviews that greeted this John Lasseter-directed tale of a young racecar (Owen Wilson) and his quest to wrest the Piston Cup from a pair of challengers (Michael Keaton and Richard Petty) weren’t up to the usual Pixar standard, audiences didn’t mind; it grossed over $460 million on its way to spawning a sequel (and a spinoff), and even if it didn’t measure up to Pixar’s previous, it was still good enough to earn praise from scribes like Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News, who wrote, “no other outfit can match Pixar’s knack for plucking heartstrings without tearing them off the frets.”

Watch Trailer


 

7. Wedding Crashers (2005) 76%

Wedding Crashers

Part of the R-rated comedy renaissance of the aughts, Wedding Crashers may not have given Wilson the opportunity to do anything new — here, he appears as John Beckwith, a soft-spoken lech with a heart of gold — but it played squarely to Wilson’s comedic gifts, had a solid Steve Faber/Bob Fisher script, and surrounded Wilson and his co-star, Vince Vaughn, with some terrific supporting talent, including Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams, and Isla Fisher. Though some critics had problems with Crashers‘ uneven tone — and the scads of gratuitous flesh on display in the movie’s opening montage — most found it too much fun to resist. “The likes of the sneakily subversive Wilson and Vaughn deserve better,” wrote MaryAnn Johnson of Flick Filosopher, “but this is darn close to a perfect showcase for what they can do, and how much better they do it together.”

Watch Trailer


 

6. Shanghai Noon (2000) 79%

Shanghai Noon

Westerns and kung fu movies have enjoyed a close relationship for years, and that rich shared tradition is given a tongue-in-cheek salute with Shanghai Noon, an action-comedy that transcends its goofier elements (Lucy Liu plays the female lead, a character named Princess Pei-Pei) and delivers a well-rounded blend of humor, adventure, and — of course — jaw-dropping stunts. Jackie Chan stars as Chon Wang (say it out loud with a drawl), a Chinese imperial guard who is sent to Nevada to rescue the princess, kidnapped by agents of the villainous Lo Fong (Roger Yuan). Of course, no sooner has he arrived in Nevada than he gets tangled up with Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson), a rather inept outlaw who starts out hijacking Wang’s train and ends up becoming an invaluable ally in his quest. For some fans, Shanghai seemed at first like just another Americanized buddy project for Chan, who had already done this sort of thing with Chris Tucker in Rush Hour. Chan and Wilson proved a duo worth watching, though; on their way to a $99 million gross (and an eventual sequel), they earned praise from critics like the New York Times’ A.O. Scott, who wrote, “Shanghai Noon is, in classic western tradition, a celebration of male bonding, unabashedly juvenile, boyishly risqué and disarmingly sweet.”

Watch Trailer


 

5. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) 81%

Tenenbaums

A year after breaking the box-office bank in Meet the Parents, Wilson and his frequent castmate reunited for a far less mainstream excursion into the oddball end of the comedy spectrum: Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. Co-writing the screenplay (about a mind-bendingly eccentric family whose overbearing, insensitive patriarch turns the lives of his children upside down) and appearing amidst an eyebrow-raising ensemble cast that also included Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bill Murray, and his brothers Andrew and Luke, Wilson was at his quirkiest and most neurotic — in other words, at his best. While it wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, Tenenbaums fared well with most critics, including Geoff Pevere of the Toronto Star, who called it “An eloquent, eccentric and surprisingly touching tribute to the comic dignity of failure.”

Watch Trailer


 

4. Meet the Parents (2000) 84%

Meet the Parents

Ben Stiller is one of the kings of uncomfortable comedy, and few films have taken advantage of his gift for squirm-inducing laughs as brilliantly as Meet the Parents, the 2000 smash hit Jay Roach comedy about male nurse Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Stiller) and his painfully awkward (and/or just plain painful) attempts to make a good first impression on his girlfriend’s parents while dealing with the unexpected presence of her annoyingly perfect ex-boyfriend (Wilson). Featuring plenty of guffaw-worthy physical comedy and splendidly antagonistic chemistry between Stiller and Robert De Niro, Parents grossed over $500 million, spawning a franchise and earning the applause of critics like Time’s Richard Schickel, who chuckled, “Alas, poor Focker. He can’t help himself. And we can’t help ourselves from falling about, equally helpless, at this superbly antic movie.”

Watch Trailer


 

3. Bottle Rocket (1996) 85%

Bottle Rocket

Wilson cut his cinematic teeth in style with 1996’s Bottle Rocket, an indie darling that not only kicked off his big-screen acting career, but found him co-writing the first of three highly regarded screenplays (followed by Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums) with director Wes Anderson. Although it was a blip on the commercial radar, this cheerful crime comedy about a trio of Texans (Wilson, his brother Luke, and Robert Musgrave) whose rather inept first foray into armed robbery leads them into the path of an older, wiser thief (James Caan) was a favorite of critics like the Washington Post’s Desson Thomson, who called it “A hilarious, inventive and goofy breath of fresh air.”

Watch Trailer


 

2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) 93%

Fantastic Fox

These days, it’s a rare animated film that doesn’t boast a star-studded cast, but most of them don’t attract the sort of award-hoarding talent that Wes Anderson lined up for Fantastic Mr. Fox, is stop-motion adaptation of the Roald Dahl book about a rascally fox (George Clooney) whose devotion to his wife (Streep) is tested by his need to have the last laugh against a trio of bloodthirsty farmers. Rounded out by an eclectic list of co-stars that included Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson, Fox thrilled critics like Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News, who called it “A visual treasure that successfully blends deadpan quirkiness with a wry realism rarely seen in any film, let alone one for children.”

Watch Trailer


 

1. Midnight in Paris (2011) 93%

Midnight in Paris

Following a fairly dire year that saw him surfacing in Little Fockers and providing the voice of Marmaduke, Wilson enjoyed a huge critical rebound with his starring performance in Midnight in Paris — a late-period smash hit for writer/director Woody Allen, who enjoyed some of the warmest reviews (and the highest grosses) of his career with the fantasy-infused comedic tale of an ennui-addled screenwriter who heads out for a melancholic walk on the streets of Paris and ends up taking much more of a journey than he bargained for. “Woody Allen seemed to have lost his fizz as a filmmaker of late,” observed Jason Best for Movie Talk, “and then he uncorked the sparkling Midnight in Paris, a comic fantasy with all the effervescence of vintage champagne.”

Watch Trailer


 

Finally, here’s Tom Hiddleston imagining what it might have sounded like if Owen Wilson had played Loki:

DGA President Taylor Hackford announced the winner for the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for 2011.

“The directors nominated this year for the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film Award have each demonstrated an inspired command of the medium. The fact that their prodigious talents have been recognized by their peers is the highest honor a director can achieve,” said Hackford. “I offer my most sincere congratulations to each of the nominees.”


Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film


Woody Allen

Midnight in Paris
David Fincher

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Winner!
Michel Hazanavicius

The Artist
Alexander Payne

The Descendants

Martin Scorsese

Hugo


Feature Documentary

James Marsh, Project Nim

This week in home video, a number of notable new releases are hitting store shelves. First up, we’ve got a couple of films that have already generated a bit of awards buzz: Woody Allen’s latest (Midnight in Paris) and an MMA drama (Warrior). Then, we’ve got a Certified Fresh inspirational kid flick, a couple of thrillers, a timely financial drama, a British coming of age tale, a dark comedy, and a movie from Japan that sort of defies categorization. Check out the full list below!



Midnight in Paris

93%

Even at this late stage of his career, Woody Allen is capable of wringing a few surprises out of his trademark formula, and Midnight in Paris is a treat for Allen’s fans and romantics alike, a comedy about wish fulfillment that’s magical and touching. Owen Wilson stars as an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to the city’s Jazz Age, sharing drinks with Salvador Dali, getting advice from Ernest Hemingway, and finding romance with a beautiful scenester (Marion Cotillard). But is our hero’s idealized 1920s Paris all that it’s cracked up to be? And is his fantasy incompatible with the real world? Wilson is one of the best Woody Allen surrogates ever, with his boundless enthusiasm for the dreamy Paris of yesteryear, and the critics were mostly charmed by the movie’s sweetness.



Warrior

83%

The sport of Mixed Martial Arts has come a long way since the early 1990s, when it established more global, mainstream exposure. Now, its fighters make millions, fans who once ordered boxing matches on Pay Per View are huddling around their televisions for UFC events, and critically acclaimed films about the sport are being made. Case in point: this year’s Warrior, starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte. The story centers on estranged brothers Tommy and Brendan (Hardy and Edgerton, respectively), who, unbeknownst to each other, both enter as competitors in an important MMA tournament with noble intentions. Tommy enlists the help of his formerly abusive father (Nolte), and as the brothers work their way through the ranks, it becomes apparent that they are destined to fight each other. Despite relying on familiar clichés of the genre, Warrior has managed to transcend its own limitations with gripping action, heart, and powerful acting (Nick Nolte has already generated some awards season buzz for his performance), and it currently holds a Certified Fresh 83% on the Tomatometer.



Dolphin Tale

82%

Inspirational stories aimed at a younger demographic and featuring exceptional animals are far from original, but every once in a while, one will come along that somehow manages to capture a genuine winning spirit. Dolphin Tale, based on true events, is one such movie. The film centers on Winter, a rescued dolphin whose tail is deformed by a crab trap, and the humans — including Morgan Freeman as a prosthetics specialist — whose pioneering efforts and moral support help her to overcome her physical challenges. Critics found Dolphin Tale to be an earnest, sweet, and well-told story enjoyable enough for kids and parents alike, thanks in part to the decision to dial down the schmaltz, and it currently sits at a Certified Fresh 84%. Probably a safe bet if you’re looking for something uplifting for the kids that won’t bore you to tears in the process.



Colombiana

27%

A handful of French filmmaker Luc Besson’s most famous films betray his penchant for femmes fatale, titles like La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element, The Messenger, and, to an extent, Leon: The Professional. With Colombiana, which Besson wrote and produced, he returns to the genre with the help of director Olivier Megaton, and critics say the result is uneven. Zoe Saldana plays a Colombian woman whose family was murdered by mobsters when she was young. Now, as a grown woman and a ruthless assassin, she sets out on a path for revenge. If the plot sounds familiar, it’s probably because the premise is sort of a staple of the revenge thriller, and though Saldana gives the performance her all, critics say there just isn’t enough to set Colombiana apart. At 28% on the Tomatometer, the movie not only fails to make an impression, but also suffers from erratic and sloppy filmmaking; it’ll probably leave you unsatisfied, but if you’ve liked any of Besson’s and Megaton’s recent work, you may still find something to enjoy here.



Straw Dogs

43%

Director Sam Peckinpah was a noted Hollywood maverick for his tendency to court controversy with films punctuated by explicit violence, and his 1971 film Straw Dogs is arguably the most famous of the bunch. Earlier this year, Rod Lurie wrote, produced, and directed a remake of Straw Dogs with James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in the lead roles of the victimized couple, and critics were none too impressed by his efforts. Marsden and Bosworth are David and Amy Sumner, a young married couple who decide to return to Amy’s Southern hometown after her father’s death to help prepare the family home for sale. In doing so, they enlist the help of Amy’s ex-boyfriend in fixing up the home, and lingering tensions build until David and Amy find themselves in a deadly confrontation with the locals. For what it’s worth, critics did feel that the remake succeeded in streamlining the original script a bit, but without the deft hand of Peckinpah at the helm, the film makes the mistake of celebrating its violence, rather than examining it. As such, Straw Dogs netted just a 42% Tomatometer score, and only those with a hankering for a bit of the old ultraviolence will find this a pleasing affair.



Margin Call

87%

Margin Call hit theaters just as Occupy Wall Street was gaining traction, and its timing couldn’t have been better. Set in a fictional investment bank (cough, Lehman Brothers), it’s the tale of a long night for the bank’s employees, who have come to realize that there may not be a firm — or much of an economy, for that matter — when the sun rises. It’s a meaty showcase for such top-notch thespians like Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and Penn Badgley, each of who give nuance and humanity to their ne-percenter characters. It’s also a strong debut for director J.C. Chandor, who crafts a sleek corporate thriller that milks suspense and pathos out of a bunch of people in suits talking about stuff like mortgage backed securities and marked volatility.



Toast

62%

It’s romantic to imagine that people with exceptional talents also have exceptional stories to tell about those talents. In the case of English food journalist Nigel Slater, it’s somewhat true. Based on Slater’s autobiographical novel of the same name, Toast recounts the writer’s childhood growing up with an asthmatic mother who was such a poor cook that the only dish she ever mastered was, well, toast. When her illness finally gets the best of her, young Nigel and his father welcome a new addition to the family in the form of a housekeeper named Mrs. Potter (Helena Bonham Carter), who soon wins over Nigel’s father and engages Nigel himself in a sort of ongoing culinary rivalry. Toast was just a tad too saccharine for many critics, but it earned a 60% on the Tomatometer, just enough for those who liked it to praise its breezy humor, visual touches, and judicious use of Helena Bonham Carter’s talents. It’s an unusual coming of age story, but its charms may just work for some.



Burke and Hare

32%

Say you had to pick a director to helm a black comedy about 19th-century Scottish serial killers; John Landis would be a reasonable choice. But the Landis you’re dreaming of (with images of An American Werewolf in London dancing in your head) and the Landis of today (who hasn’t had a movie in theaters since 1998) are two very different people. So here lies Burke and Hare, a story of two friends (Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis) who sell their murder victims for scientific dissection, and a non-firing comeback special for Landis. Critics and audiences on either side of the pond rejected the film, considering it too uneven and unpleasant even for a movie about slicing bodies up. But as a document that captures an odd moment in Landis’s already odd career, and a moment in time when you could get both Simon Pegg (soon to be getting more roles now that Mission: Impossible is out) and Andy Serkis (already guaranteed immortalization from fanboys who think the Academy doesn’t give enough attention to guys playing walking, talking animals) in the same room, this movie is a compelling failure.



Love Exposure

91%

Standard movie runtime has been universally accepted at 90 to 120 minutes. Expand beyond that and you better give up the goods — robots, or war, or time travel, or stories of unrequited transdimensional love triangles. But a 237 minute movie about the art of upskirt photography? Now that’s bold. Such is the case with Love Exposure, a 2008 film by Sion Sono that has charming topics like lust, religion, and coming of age in a world where being a panty shot photographer is a normal thing. The film has had a long run of success at festivals (and Sono continues to make critically acclaimed films of high emotions), but its odd topic and story have kept it from reaching any audience in America — until now.

It’s hard not to envy Kevin Clash’s day job: he gets to build puppets, perform silly voices and create characters for the entertainment of millions of kids around the world. The subject of Constance Marks’ acclaimed documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, Clash is a key player in the Jim Henson team, serving as a perforrmer, producer and creative consultant on the Muppets and Sesame Street, where his impossibly popular little red avatar continues to enthrall young audiences. But he’s more than just Elmo’s engine. As the documentary reveals, Clash’s career as a puppeteer goes way back to his childhood, when he was entertaining neighborhood kids as a peer and later scouted to perform on national TV shows while still in his teens. A mentorship with his idol, the late Jim Henson, would follow, with Clash performing characters in Henson productions like Labyrinth and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles while developing Sesame Street‘s Elmo — a second-string fuzzball who would soon, to everyone’s surprise, became a superstar. We spoke with Clash recently as he was en route to New York’s Muppet workshop, where he reflected on his experience working with Henson, how he creates his characters, and that time Elmo testified before Congress. But first, we asked him to name his five favorite films…

The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985; 88% Tomatometer)



I think I would say The Color Purple. It pulls you in. When the characters are written and directed so well that your heart goes out to all of them, even the ones that are supposed to be the villains, that’s a good movie to me. I really connected to Steven [Spielberg] in that movie, having the kids, you know, play it out with the whole frog scene — that was wonderful. I mean, just so clever. There was even a little clip of Sesame Street in it. [Laughs]

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982; 98% Tomatometer)



Man… just magic. I remember a friend coming back from seeing it and him saying, “You know, E.T. could have been built out of a sock, the story was so good.” It just had the heart, and the excitement, from beginning to end; it’s something that you wanna go to the movies for.

As a puppeteer, what did you think of the way they created and performed E.T.?

Beautifully. I mean, I knew the ins and outs of what they were doing and I thought it was beautiful. It was just enough to believe, you know. Just enough to believe. I know that Spielberg and Lucas, you know… you look back at stuff that you’ve done and you say, “Wow, wouldn’t it have been great to have that technology that we have now to make it work,” but you know what? It worked in the way they wanted it to in that movie and they did a beautiful job, with just enough movement and just enough expression to believe that character.

Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011; 93% Tomatometer)



Midnight in Paris, wow. A very imaginative film. Woody Allen at his best. Just wonderful. I wanna go and really get caught up in a movie when I go, and that one definitely did it for me.

The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991; 96% Tomatometer)



The Silence of the Lambs… You know, I never thought I would like a thriller but it was so phenomenally directed, and just suspenseful.

Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010; 99% Tomatometer)



I’d have to pick Toy Story 3. It hit the heart, the way it should, that movie — reminiscing about the transition from child to kind of a man. That transition, with toys and stuff, that was wonderful. When he’s saying goodbye to his toys for the last time, that was wonderful.

Next, Clash talks about his experience working with Jim Henson, how he creates characters, and the cultural phenomenon of Elmo.

 

One of the things that comes through in Being Elmo is this sense of Jim Henson’s continuing legacy. What do you think he’d make of things now?

Oh, I think he’d be very excited and happy. For Sesame Street to be going on and to be the icon that it is, and that it has been, and also the buzz about the new movie [The Muppets] — that the characters are maybe having another rejuvenation. I think he’d be very, very excited about that. Because everybody grew up watching it; it’s kind of like Sesame Street. Everybody’s excited about seeing their friends again, because they haven’t seen them in a while.

What was your experience like working with Jim for the first time on Labyrinth?

That was my first movie, so I was blown away. I was in London working on it for, like, eight months, and it was so much fun. It was wonderful. And to work with him, not just performing a character, performing a puppet, but actually being a part of the production of the movie, and working closely with him and with his son Brian Henson, it was a dream come true. It was amazing. I learned so much from that movie.

The behind-the-scenes footage we see in the documentary shows Jim making you do a scene over and over, refusing to accept the possibility that it couldn’t be done. Was he a perfectionist in the way he worked?

[Laughs] In certain ways when he wanted something, he knew it could work — so he wanted us to keep going with it. Was he a perfectionist? In certain ways, yes. Definitely. But it was about that vision that he had, and that’s why he was so successful at what he did.

What’s the one thing you remember him telling you that you’ll never forget?

Well, I think it’s “Just have fun and be silly with it; never take it seriously. You know, what we do, we take seriously, but when you put the puppet on, have a good time. The Muppets are meant to be rebellious, so that’s what they should do.”

I think my favorite performance of yours is Splinter, in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Oh I had a wonderful time with that. I would love to do him again.

Were you aware that you were making this pop phenomenon when you were working on it?

You know what: looking at the dailies — yes. We were blown away. We were saying, “The audience is gonna go crazy over this.” It was really exciting. We didn’t know how huge it would be, but we saw it in the rushes, you know; we saw that it was something really cool. Definitely on Ninja Turtles one.

What’s it like performing a character like Splinter compared to, say, Elmo? Do you employ the same basic principles?

Well, you’re creating a character. Elmo to me is like this little, three-and-a-half-year-old kid. With Splinter, I thought about Pat Morita from Karate Kid, and then I thought about {Edward] James Olmos, who was in Miami Vice, and how cool he was — and I combined those two, to bring life to this 75-year-old rat. [Laughs] So that was my direction for him. He wasn’t necessarily there to make people laugh; he was the father figure to these four teenagers, and that’s the way I played him. So it was a lot of fun to sink my teeth into. It was more of an acting situation with that character, rather than — well, a playful one, like Elmo.

But he does finally get to make a joke at the end, and it’s unquestionably the greatest final line in the history of cinema.

Yes. [Laughs]

 

Elmo was an almost-forgotten secondary character on Sesame Street, who veteran puppeteers like Richard Hunt had given up on. So what was it about him that made you pick him up and say, “I can do something with this character”?

The challenge for me was, if Richard couldn’t do anything for him, well what could I do? But then I thought about it; I went and spent some time with my mom and her daycare kids, and started to check them out and see, you know, the different ways they move. One thing about kids is they go through the motions in seconds — one moment they can be crying, then laughing the next — and so I played that into Elmo to a certain extent, and just picked up different mannerisms. So when I went in [to the studio] the next evening I was a little bit more prepared, rather than just getting thrown this character into the season. That’s how I got his niche.

So Elmo is primarily based on those kids?

Yeah, and also what they always wanted. What they truly wanted was hugs and kisses and play-dates and laughing. [Laughs]. That’s where I got all that from.

Do you think kids respond to him because he’s one of them?

I think that’s why he’s so popular — because they relate to him, as themselves.

When Elmo became such a huge sensation, was it something you expected?

No, not at all. [Laughs] I was pleasantly surprised. It was really exciting because you wanna go in and find your niche with the show, with these iconic characters — I mean, Big Bird was on the cover of TIME magazine. So to try and get a character that can work alongside of these unbelievable characters that were now celebrities in their own right, to actually have a character that gets that popular… man, it changed my life.

Was there any professional jealously on the set between the characters?

[Laughs] No! Not at all, with anyone. We don’t write the scripts. [Laughs] We have scripts, but we play off them. Big Bird would be like, “Look! Another friend!”

So there are no deleted reels of puppet diva tantrums?

No! [Laughs] Not at each other.

Would you ever consider passing the Elmo character on, training an apprentice?

Well that’s definitely a possibility. I think the show will be on forever, you know — just as long as there are kids being born. If it ever came to that point [of passing the character on], of course.

Are there kids out there who come up to you and perform his voice?

No, no, they’re coming up and wanting to say “Hello” and hug their friend. [Laughs] They never really do that — but sometimes adults do. [Laughs]

Elmo is the only puppet to have testified before Congress — what was that like?

It was for NAM, which is a wonderful musical instrument organization that tries to put musical instruments back in schools — that’s the first thing that goes, unfortunately, the art in schools. And so Elmo was there testify that he would love to have instruments in schools when gets there. It was a lot of fun, because I enjoyed doing something that has never been done before — you would never think to see a Sesame Street character in Washington testifying. It was funny. [Laughs]

And why not, right.

Yeah. I remember seeing that wonderful clip on YouTube of Fred Rogers [host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood] testifying about the importance of PBS and I remember the beginnings of it, where the guy’s saying [sarcastically] “Okay Rogers,” and then of course Fred started and melted this guy — and then he got it; he understood what the importance was. That’s the only other time that I saw someone from children’s programming in Washington testifying. [Laughs] Elmo definitely walked in Fred’s footsteps, to make sure that they got it twice.


Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles, with more cities to follow..

This week at the movies, we’ve got a close encounter (Super 8, starring Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning), a quest for fun (Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, starring Jordana Beatty and Heather Graham), and a Gallic nostalgia trip (Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams). What do the critics have to say?



Super 8

81%

With films like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg altered the cinematic landscape by combining B-movie thrills with sophistication and emotional heft. Now, with Spielberg producing, J.J. Abrams tries something similar with Super 8, and critics say it’s a both an expert homage to old-school 1970s proto-blockbusters and an exciting, heartfelt thrill-ride in its own right. Super 8 is the tale of a group of youngsters who, while filming a homemade movie, witness a horrific train crash. When the citizens of their small town become unnerved by a series of unexplained disappearances, the kids begin to suspect the crash might not have been an accident — and it may have unleashed something unworldly upon their sleepy community. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Super 8 pulls off the neat trick of being both suspenseful and poignant, with strong performances and an uncanny sense of the story-driven power of Spielberg’s early classics. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Spielberg’s best productions.)



Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer

21%

It’s an old adage, but it’s one that bears repeating: sometimes, what works on the page falls flat on the screen. Take Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, for example: critics say this kiddie comedy — based upon the bestselling books by Megan McDonald — is an exercise in overblown whimsy that’s so manic it never slows down long enough to charm. Judy Moody is the tale of a precocious eight-year-old (played by Jordana Beatty) forced to spend the summer with her eccentric Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) when her parents and best friends leave town. But Judy’s got a plan, in the form of a checklist of adventures that, if achieved, count for “thrill points.” The pundits say that little kids might find some laughs in Judy Moody, but their parents and older siblings probably won’t; despite the good efforts of a game cast, the movie is hyper and noisy, with a plot that’s more a series of zany vignettes than a cohesive story.



Midnight in Paris

93%

Even at this late stage of his career, Woody Allen is capable of wringing a few surprises out of his trademark formula. Critics say Midnight in Paris is a treat for Allen’s fans and romantics alike, a comedy about wish fulfillment that’s magical and touching. Owen Wilson stars as an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to the city’s Jazz Age, sharing drinks with Salvador Dali, getting advice from Ernest Hemingway, and finding romance with a beautiful scenester (Marion Cotillard). But is our hero’s idealized 1920s Paris all that it’s cracked up to be? And is his fantasy incompatible with the real world? The critics say the Certified Fresh Midnight in Paris is a delight, with terrific performances from an all-star cast (particularly Wilson as Allen’s onscreen surrogate) and a dreamy sweetness that’s both funny and lovely.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • One Lucky Elephant, a documentary about a man’s attempt to move an adult circus pachyderm to a more natural environment, is at 100 percent.
  • The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in a largely improvised comedy about a pair of foodies on a jaunt across the English countryside, is at 85 percent.
  • Viva Riva!, a Congolese crime drama about a small-time hustler looking to make a big score without running afoul of the underworld, is at 83 percent.
  • Bride Flight, a drama about three Dutch women immigrating to New Zealand whose lives intersect with a fellow immigrant, is at 80 percent.
  • TrollHunter, a horror/comedy about a group of Norwegian film students who discover a terrifying mythic beast, is at 77 percent.
  • Road To Nowhere, a drama about a woman cast in a true crime film that shares many similarities with the victim she’s portraying, is at 71 percent.
  • Just Like Us, doc about a Middle Eastern tour of a group standup comedians, is at 67 percent.
  • Reversion, a meditative sci-fi drama about a woman with a mutation that doesn’t allow her to process time, is at 43 percent.

This week at the movies, we’ve got the hotly-anticipated fourth journey of Capt. Jack Sparrow — Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. What do the critics have to say?



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

33%

When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theaters in 2003, it was a delightful surprise — Johnny Depp charmed nearly everyone with his Keith Richards-meets-Buster Keaton performance as the lovable, roguish Capt. Jack Sparrow, and the whole enterprise was much smarter — and more exciting – than any movie based upon an amusement park ride had a right to be. What was once fresh, however, has now become pretty stale; critics say the third Pirates sequel, On Stranger Tides, has moments of inspiration, but mostly it just feels mechanical, overdosing on big effects without generating much excitement in the process. This time out, Sparrow is in search of the mythical Fountain of Youth. He commandeers the ship of the legendary Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and joins forces with the mysterious, possibly villainous Angelica (Penélope Cruz). The pundits say that while On Stranger Tides is well-acted and shows flashes of the vaudevillian swashbuckling that made the franchise a pop-culture staple, it mostly does exactly what you expect, but without the brisk pacing and panache of yore. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s best-reviewed movies.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Louder Than A Bomb, a documentary about a group of high school students competing in a poetry slam competition, is at 100 percent.
  • Life 2.0, a doc about the strange lives of Second Life players, is at 100 percent.
  • Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in a comedy/fantasy about a writer who finds himself transported to Jazz Age Paris, is at 87 percent.
  • Cost of a Soul, a drama about an Iraq war vet who returns home to a dangerous neighborhood, is at 33 percent.

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