Celebrate the last remaining days of your freedom with these newest films on Netflix for January! Seems like the streaming site may be adding a few ‘90s and early aughts faves to their inventory…
“The War of the Worlds” 
Loosely based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel of the same name, “The War of the Worlds” shows a scientist’s attempt to stop funny-looking Martians from invading a small California town. Byron Haskin’s version may not have America’s most famous couch-jumper and the little girl from “I Am Sam,” but the Cold War undertones and extraterrestrial special effects makes his adaptation (the first of five for this novel) more thought-provoking and entertaining than Steven Spielberg’s polarizing 2005 rendition.
“The French Connection” 
Two years before he directed one of the scariest films of all time, William Friedkin proved his directorial skills in the Academy Award-winning “The French Connection.” Adapted from the 1969 non-fiction book about two New York detectives and their attempt to disclose a drug trafficking scheme. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider play detectives Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo in this realistic, frantic and smart picture.
“101 Dalmatians” 
“101 Dalmatians” proves that you can never have too many dalmatian puppies to fill the screen with. Never mind the “Home Alone”-esque plot. The film is just a visual and therapeutic treat. It’s 101 pooches of spotted cuteness versus Cruella de Vil, arguably the most iconic and humanistic Disney villain with a name that’s both literal and figurative, played by a catty Glenn Close.
In “Election,” overachiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) will do anything just to get chosen as the student body president, even if it means destroying her opponent’s campaign posters. Alexander Payne’s film is a scathing satire of deceitful politics, whether it’s in high school or in Washington, DC. Witherspoon portrays Tracy with an annoying yet respectable eagerness for victory that some Cal students may relate to, with or without total agreement.
“Cast Away” 
Tom Hanks is in a grittier, more humanizing role as a tightly wound FedEx analyst who gets stranded in an island and makes a friend out of a volleyball. Sold. “Cast Away” is another great collaboration by Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis following 1994 “Forrest Gump.” Serving as the initial inspiration for the ABC drama “Lost,” the film may have started the trend of human self-discovery from displacement or isolation. Or maybe not, but it’s still a good movie.
“Bruce Almighty” 
“Bruce Almighty” follows Bruce Nolan as he gets God-like powers after complaining about God’s incompetence with his job. Pure fun and entertaining, the film is the comedian’s and director Tom Shadyac’s third collaboration after 1994 “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and 1997 “Liar Liar.” It also marks the end of Jim Carrey’s golden decade of blockbuster slapstick flicks.
“Get Low” 
A seemingly unbelievable yet loosely factual story about Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), a recluse who suddenly appears in public and demands the townspeople to hold a “funeral party” for himself. Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek join Duvall as they deliver fresh and terrific performances. “Get Low” teases the borderline of weirdness to develop a touching tale of remorse and forgiveness.
“To Be Takei” 
Not only is George Takei a substantial LGBT rights activist, but he is also great as Hikaru Sulu, the USS Enterprise helmsman in the original “Star Trek” series. The documentary film, directed by Jennifer M. Kroot, wonderfully captures Takei’s life and his infectious personality and his sense of humor.
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” 
Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In”) adapts John Le Carré’s 1974 spy novel “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” The film centers on George “Beggarman” Smiley (Gary Oldman), a retired British intelligence agent who is asked to return to MI-6 after someone is leaking information to the Soviets in the midst of Cold War. With a slew of high-caliber actors (Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and Toby Jones to name a few) and a brilliant screenplay, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” perfectly nails the thrilling espionage feel.
Jon Favreau directs, writes and stars in “Chef,” a film about a Los Angeles-based professional chef who quits his job, goes to Miami to revamp a food truck and sells Cuban sandwiches as he drives back to Los Angeles. Joining him in this journey is his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and their young son. The film enjoys some supporting performances from Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey, Jr. All in all, Favreau’s decision to go “back to basics” produces a dramedy that deserves all the positive culinary-related puns. This movie is a delicious treat, indeed.
Contact Majick Tadepa at [email protected].