5 Best New Movies on Netflix Streaming

Hurt Locker, something new from De Niro, a feel-good dog-uprising tale and more.

best of netflix

To be fair, there were back-to-school sales as early as June (which, if I were a kid, I would be enormously offended by), but now we’re truly coming into the homestretch. Summer’s winding down folks, time to flip up the dark glasses and peer into the frigid grayness to come off in the far distance. I mean, not to bum you out or anything, but you have a month left of low-key, relaxed-office, quasi-vacation time left before the grind begins anew and with depressing vigor. Maybe it’s a good time to stock up on some fine visual entertainment before the onslaught, hey? Here are some of our picks for the best and most interesting offerings from Netflix streaming this month.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winner shows its hand pretty early by introducing us to the best-known actor in the cast, Guy Pearce, and killing him 10 minutes into the proceedings. Unpredictable as war itself, the film flits around the character of SFC William James (the previously unknown Jeremy Renner), an explosives expert tasked with defusing IEDs in war-torn Iraq. His is a steely-nerved job that doesn’t exactly prepare him for civilian life back home. The title, like much of the film itself, is never touched on or explained, so it remains another cypher in a fascinating puzzle of a narrative. Powerful without ever overplaying itself.

 Two Days, One Night (2014)

This critic’s pick for the best film of 2014, the Dardenne Brothers’ brilliant and deeply moving film, starring a sublime Marion Cotillard as an emotionally fragile woman given a single weekend to convince her former co-workers to let her have her job back, is a treatise on personal ethics that should be required viewing for everyone participating in the human race. It’s the rarest of artistic experiences: A morality tale that is neither imbalanced nor beseeching.

Being Flynn (2012)

Based on the excellent memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn, Paul Weitz’s film chronicles the life of our titular hero (Paul Dano), a feckless, wandering spirit, whose homeless father (Robert De Niro) suddenly appears at the homeless shelter in which he works. To say the two men have a difficult relationship is supreme understatement, but the film is anchored by a cultivated aversion to melodrama and the riveting performances of its two leads.

Pariah (2011)

A smart, understated lesbian-coming-out drama from director Dee Rees, here’s what I wrote about it in my initial review: “It’s a very assured and ambitious debut, a small but potent story that examines the well-honed powder keg relations of mothers and teen daughters with a fresh eye, undaunted by the many such stories that have come before. The question implicit in the film’s title is never cleanly explained: as a testament to how even-handed and carefully put together the final piece is, by the end it’s impossible to know exactly to whom its referring.”

White God (2014)

A more than controversial title that played at Sundance earlier this year. Director Kornél Mundruczó has made a human-canine allegory that, for the film’s brutal first half, plays like every dog-lovers worst nightmare: a young Hungarian girl’s beloved pooch is abandoned by her mean-spirited estranged father, and suffers endlessly at the hands of man. The second part stretches the allegory to include a magic-realism-infused dog uprising, lead by the abused pooch, which allows him to exact revenge on everyone who wronged him. It at turns very difficult to watch, and oddly thrilling. Dog lovers should note: (a) All the dogs used in the film were abandoned strays, for whom were then found loving homes after filming, and (b) The performance by the lead dog (actually played by two dogs) is absolutely mesmerizing. Watch at your own risk, but for some of you, the rewards will outweigh the punishment. (Available August 27th.)

Piers Marchant is a film critic and writer based in Philly. Find more confounding amusements and diversions at his blog, Sweet Smell of Success, or read his further 142-character rants and ravings at @kafkaesque83.