5 Best New Films to Stream on Netflix in October: Hoop Dreams, Tombstone, Meryl’s Breakout Role, and More
Even for a company whose business model involves catering to the widest possible range of viewer, Netflix has outdone itself this month with a crazy-quilt panoply of choices, from faulty-but-beloved TV shows (Gilmore Girls) to crappy ’80s comedies (Three Fugitives) to an early film from one of this country’s greatest auteurs, they have you covered. It’s an insanely schizophrenic lineup, but here are some of our choices for the best of the lot.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
The famed and greatly celebrated documentary from Steve James finds a pair of gifted inner-city Chicago high school basketball players attempting to play for a major college team en route to what they hope will be a journey to the NBA. The boys (William Gates and Arthur Agee) are high school freshman when the film begins, and their story becomes ever more precious and heartbreakingly intimate as the film progresses five years into the future. The resulting portrait of these kids and their ever-hopeful families captures the essential cruelty for many of these kids with professional sports aspirations, but it also offers a somewhat more realistic kind of hope at the same time.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
A busy Manhattan man must contend with his wife leaving him and caring for their young son on his own before having to fight for the boy’s custody when she returns. An actor’s showcase, the film stars Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep—in the role that really jumpstarted her career—as the unfortunate couple. When Joanna suddenly leaves one morning, too miserable in her marriage to stand it anymore, that leaves workaholic Ted in charge of the household and their son, a role for which he is singularly ill-equipped. Sexist as it seems now, in its time it introduced two pretty radical ideas into mainstream consciousness: that women didn’t have to stick loyally by their man if they were miserable, and that men could be loving caregivers of their children on their own.
In a World … (2013)
A would-be voice-over actress competes for a huge contract with her pompous father, the biggest name in the business. This is a charming comedy from Lake Bell, who wrote, directed and starred in the production. The subject matter is particularly engrossing to film fans who’ve come to love the portentous, grave trailer voiceovers from legends such as Don LaFontaine, who narrated some 5000 film trailers before his death in 2008. Bell’s comedy follows a pretty well-worn path plot-wise, but its engaging subject matter, and her own enchanting performance keep it sharp. (Available starting October 7th)
Western lawman Wyatt Earp and his friends run afoul of a cutthroat gang of criminals, leading to one of the most famous shoot-outs in American history. Despite a bully cast (including Kurt Russell, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, and Dana Delany), and the gorgeous backdrop of the Tucson mountains, this umpteenth recreation of the OK Corral shooting would remain fairly pedestrian, but for acting pyrotechnics of one Val Kilmer, who plays Doc Holliday like a doomed, dying rock star. From his consumptive pale complexion to his lilting, indelible delivery (“Ahm yoore huckel-barry”), you absolutely cannot take your eyes off him. Endure the silliness of the rest of the film to watch an actor in a sidebar role absolutely dominate the screen.
Paths of Glory (1957)
Twenty-nine-year old Stanley Kubrick’s first real taste of the Hollywood big time follows a commander in the French army who has to deal with the mutiny of some of his men and a power-mad general in the trenches of WWI. Working with a firmly established star, Kirk Douglas, who became one of his early benefactors (it was Douglas’s star power that helped convince United Artists to entrust the project with such an unknown director), Kubrick created a military screed whose themes he would revisit several times later in his illustrious career. Note the use of a kind of primitive steady-cam effect Kubrick utilizes while swooping down the tight, muddy trenches, a technique he would later use to powerfully haunting effect in The Shining some 25 years later.