The time has come once again for that most hallowed and accessible of online streaming services known as Netflix to cut a few titles from its voluminous selection of films and television shows while adding many more guaranteed to please its subscriber base.
Below you’ll find my picks for the best of Netflix’s new additions for the month of January 2016. As usual, most of the titles are available for viewing at the start of the month, but there are a few more set to premiere later in the month that those of us unable to get out to the movie theater much will find to be of great interest.
2 Fast 2 Furious (January 1)
The first sequel to The Fast and the Furious brought back Paul Walker, left out Vin Diesel, and introduced Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris into the fold. Under the direction of John Singleton, 2 Fast 2 Furious upped the ante for digitally-enhanced auto races and stunts and kept the young franchise alive and running at top speed. Today, it’s one of the biggest movie series in history.
Constantine (January 1)
Not to be confused with the recent NBC series that proved to be a greater deal more faithful to the source material but couldn’t produce the ratings required to stay on the air. Before he became one of Hollywood’s top blockbuster filmmakers with I Am Legend and the Hunger Games sequels, veteran music video director Francis Lawrence got his first crack at the big time behind the camera of this FX-heavy adaptation of DC Comics’ supernatural horror title Hellblazer. Here the comic’s laconic British anti-hero John Constantine becomes a very American Keanu Reeves, who successfully maintains his dignity and handles the kinetic action sequences with stone-faced stoicism. Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, and musician Gavin Rossdale offer up some able support, and all involved deserve special commendation for tolerating the presence of Shia LaBeouf.
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (January 1)
The Ice Age movies could never hold a candle to the emotion and imagination on display in the finest Pixar ever produced, but they never felt the need to do so. A greater emphasis is placed on wacky comedy anyone who grew up loving the animated adventures of Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang would appreciate. The segments with the hyperactive squirrel Scrat might have made the late Chuck Jones chuckle a bit. Hardly high art, but the kids will definitely love it and so may some adults.
Intolerable Cruelty (January 1)
A rare frothy farce from the hands and minds of Joel and Ethan Coen, the romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty benefits from priceless chemistry between leads George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones and some occasional flashes of the Coen’s trademark offbeat sense of humor. If you really want to dig deep into the brothers’ slim catalog of notable failures, Netflix also drops their remake of the Ealing Studios comedy classic The Ladykillers, starring Tom Hanks and J.K. Simmons, on January 12.
Meet the Parents (January 1)
Who would have thought that Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro would make for one of the best cinematic comedy teams this century has seen so far? But both actors have proven themselves to be absolutely fearless in their best and most iconic comedic and dramatic roles, so their first pairing in Jay Roach‘s Meet the Parents can’t help but produce plenty of classic hilarity of the slow burn variety. Unfortunately, the early promise of Parents could not sustain itself through two belated follow-ups that fell victim to the Law of Diminishing Returns in the creativity and profitability departments. Netflix is also offering the 2004 sequel Meet the Fockers, which is also funny but doesn’t contain as many awkward laughs as the original, the same day.
The Rundown (January 1)
I didn’t care much at the time for Dwayne Johnson‘s first stab at seizing the action hero crown with The Scorpion King (though it has grown on me over the years), but the Peter Berg-directed The Rundown instantly won me over from the opening sequence. Johnson puts his cool charisma and willingness to mock his own image as a wrestling icon to good use as a reluctant criminal sent into Brazil to retrieve Seann William Scott‘s trouble-making treasure hunter and ends up tangling with a corrupt mining kingpin played by Christopher Walken with that special Walken-esque flair for hamming it with magnificent inflection and giving his every line of dialogue the ring of oddball slam poetry. Rosario Dawson holds her own as the rare female character who isn’t in the mix to serve as anyone’s love interest, even though she does ultimately become a damsel-in-distress. A wild action flick with cult movie soul, The Rundown is never less than ripping great fun.
Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (January 22)
The Asylum/SyFy franchise that gets bigger and weirder with each installment brings back some of the “stars” of the first two movies and surrounds them with a slumming supporting cast that knows no such thing as shame (obviously headed by David Hasselhoff). I hear this one also has sharks in space. A fourth Sharknado is inevitable at this point. You’re welcome, America.
Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball (January 1)
Joe Carnahan‘s 2007 bullet-ripped, blood-soaked crime farce did well enough at the box office to warrant a single direct-to-video sequel that’s better than it has any right to be despite not being as stylish or violent as the original. A bored Tom Berenger heads up a pretty decent cast killing each other off in a flood of low-budget carnage. For further proof of this flick’s entertainment value, check out my DVD review from February 2010.
Swordfish (January 1)
John Travolta tries to reclaim his glory days as a scenery-munching badass villain by clashing with Hugh Jackman‘s heroically handsome hacker in this not-too-bright cyber crime drama that is low on sense and high on action, thrills, and lots of other bright, shiny objects to keep you distracted from thinking about it too much. Swordfish achieved some brief notoriety at the time of its release when it was revealed that co-star Halle Berry banked a cool $500K for a fleeting topless scene. The climatic set-piece revolves around an airborne city bus. Future Avenger Don Cheadle plays the long, perpetually confused arm of the law. Just go with it and you might have fun.
Training Day (January 4)
Denzel Washington gives one of the gutsiest performances of his career as a renegade L.A. narcotics detective who has gone over to the dark side for money and glory and now desires to take idealistic new recruit Ethan Hawke along for one long, violent rollercoaster ride to the seedy underbelly of the city and back and rightfully earned a Best Actor Oscar for his efforts in Antoine Fuqua‘s relentless crime drama. Training Day is a mean machine of a street-level action-thriller that is only let down by a third act that throws out the fascinating character development and shades-of-grey morality for a pedestrian wrap-up that demands the bad guy must pay for his misdeeds.
Other movies being added to Netflix include Along Came Polly, Catwoman, Hyde Park on Hudson, Pride and Prejudice, Turbo Kid, and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Parks and Recreation: Season 7 (January 13)
For its seventh and final season, Parks and Recreation – one of the sweetest and most consistently funny shows in my entire life – jumped three years into the future to see how the lives Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her dysfunctional family of beloved friends and government colleagues in Pawnee, Indiana diverged in strange and interesting ways. One television that never went through the motions even when it looked that way, Parks spends its last season taking the mother of all victory laps and sending its delightful cast of characters off in appropriately goofy style. It’s worth it just to see Chris Pratt‘s Andy Dwyer give his final performance as both children’s entertainer Johnny Karate and Burt Macklin (F.B.I.!), but every season is a sweet little pleasure that never gets old.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 10 (January 5)
A decade has passed since the premiere of the single most foul, disturbing, and darkly hilarious comedy in television history and the gang of Paddy’s Pub hasn’t displayed any signs of losing their hedonistic edge. Laugh along and wonder why for hours afterwards with Dennis, Mac, Charlie, Sweet Dee, and that ol’ dirty bastard Frank as they attempt group dating, go on a Family Feud-type game show, start a cult, and try to beat Wade Boggs’ record for most beers consumed on a cross-country flight. I’ve only seen a few episodes from the tenth season, so I plan on a serious binge watch. Bring your own rum ham.
Other television shows being added to Netflix this month include the second seasons of From Dusk Till Dawn and Z Nation and the fourth season of New Girl.
Among the titles leaving Netflix in January are A Clockwork Orange, Almost Famous, Gladiator, Jackass: The Movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Trading Places, and Zoolander. If you’re need of a Sylvester Stallone fix, just know that the first three Rambo movies and first five Rocky movies will be getting cut from Netflix’s line-up next month as well. Check them out while you still can.
For a full list of the films and shows coming to and going from streaming service in January, click here.
That wraps up my choices for the best movies and TV to watch this month on Netflix. Having a subscription is one of the best investments that someone who is rarely away from their laptop for long like myself can make. I highly recommend getting one. Come back next time for more recommendations.