Streaming giant Netflix likes to keep its 139 million subscribers happy by keeping its stockpile of movie selections fresh. Every month, a handful of TV shows and movies leave the streaming site, but this outflow is matched by an influx of new ones. Here are three particularly welcome additions — oldies but goodies — and two notable mentions coming to Netflix this month.
“Apollo 13” (March 1)
Ron Howard’s 1995 film is a thrilling tale of human survival in the vacuum of space. It captures the sequence of events leading up to the failure of the titular spaceflight mission to the moon. The story is told as a parallel between the ramping tensions in the cockpit as the astronauts address a stream of technical problems, and the pragmatic resilience of problem solvers at NASA Headquarters. The film also balances powerful performances from its central cast of astronauts, which includes Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. While its depictions of space may not be as awe-inspiring as films released in recent memory (no doubt in part due to technical limitations 20 years ago) — such as the expansive sense of infinity in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity" and the haunting beauty of Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” come to mind — “Apollo 13” is still a poignant portrayal of resilience in the face of diminishing odds and is worth a watch.
“The Hurt Locker” (March 1)
“The Hurt Locker” is an exhilarating military thriller that tells the story of a battered U.S. soldier (Jeremy Renner) in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (the process of deeming explosive devices safe) who deals with the harsh realities of the Iraq War as well as the difficulties of adjusting to mundane civilian life. Many memorable moments transpire when the soldiers find themselves forced into action. Director Kathryn Bigelow handles tension in these scenarios impressively, with her visceral cinematography and shaky camera movements that immerse the viewer entirely in the hammering pace of the adrenaline-laced action. While not done to the scale of a full-blown war epic popularized by Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Hurt Locker” more than holds its own merit with its smaller scale. The film is uncompromising in forcing the audience to confront completely immersive, brutal, and morbid images, but the violence is not simply gratuitous.
“Kung Fu Hustle” (March 15)
A hysterical comedy with a ridiculous plot that matches its ridiculous fun, Stephen Chow’s unique, Cantonese take on a gangster film is hard to forget. Chow also stars as the film’s lead, Sing, a down on his luck aspiring gangster, who, together with his helpless sidekick Bone (Lam Chi-Chung), traverses a bleak Shanghai in an attempt to find a neighborhood where they can belong as gangsters. Some plot points are convoluted and the premise is absurd, but the film is acutely self-aware. Featuring well-choreographed martial arts scenes (which Chow also plays for laughs), an iconic climax, and a guaranteed two hours of nonstop laughter, “Kung Fu Hustle” deserves a few rewatches.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (March 1)
Ang Lee enlivens his sprawling masterpiece with luscious cinematography, expertly crafted fight scenes, and powerhouse performances. The story follows a seasoned warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) as he leaves his highly coveted, legendary sword, the "Green Destiny,” with his lover Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Lee’s film mixes emotionally resonant storytelling with twists that will keep any audience engaged and sets that look like they were plucked out of time from the Qing Dynasty.
“Saving Mr. Banks” (March 1)
"Saving Mr. Banks" is a feel-good, if perhaps sensationalized, drama of Walt Disney convincing P.L. Travers to hand over the rights for "Mary Poppins." With a narrative that flips back and forth between Travers’ childhood and her present struggle with Disney, there are moments that feel uneven in its tone and pacing. But with bankable performances from its two stars, Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, nostalgic music, and an unmistakably fantastical "Disney" atmosphere, “Saving Mr Banks” is hard not to enjoy.