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Ben Vanelli

In this article by The Perkiomenite’s senior editor and avid film fan, Ben Vanelli, readers can hear about some movies reviewed by Ben himself to watch in their free time this month. Check back for a new monthly list of recommendations! 

Theaters are still closed for the time being, and even without a pandemic, streaming is emerging as the most popular way to watch movies. On my first edition of movie recommendations, I’ll be listing some of my favorite films on the main streaming services this month. It’s impossible to pick from all the options out right now, but I think these should all have the broadest appeal.

Netflix 

Goodfellas (1990)

Director: Martin Scorsese

MPAA Rating: R

This gangster biopic is my favorite film of all time. It does an excellent job of saying that all the glory of being a mafia man ultimately results in nothing. There is undoubtedly an appeal to the life that the main character, Henry Hill, lives: he gets rich beyond his wildest dreams and is treated as a god amongst men in the NYC nightclub scene. The non-stop soundtrack of rock and roll adds to the adrenaline, only for the terrifying, ugly truth on the opposite side of the coin to be revealed as the film progresses.

 

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Director: Stuart Rosenberg 

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Paul Newman heads to jail in this classic story of a man who refuses to give in to the authority of the prison warden. He quickly wins the respect and following of the rest of the prisoners, inspiring them to fight back against the system; critic Roger Ebert noted the narrative as one that may allude to the opposition of the Vietnam War. What Cool Hand Luke does so effectively is that it makes its viewer root for a guy who isn’t necessarily a saint. He wins you over with grit and with a truer definition of masculinity, as a man who stands up for his own right, even as a prisoner.

 

Django Unchained (2012)

Director: Quentin Tarantino 

MPAA Rating: R

This movie is awesome. That’s the only word that can describe it. It reinvents the classic western character Django as a freed slave who, with the help of a German abolitionist bounty hunter, sets out to find his wife who’s been separated from him. There’s plenty of violence and fantastic action— classic Tarantino movie tropes— but there’s also a huge sense of heart within the dynamic between our two leads. Christoph Waltz is incredibly likable as Dr. Schultz and his chemistry with Jamie Foxx is really amazing to watch.

 

Hulu

Parasite (2019)

Director: Bong-Joo Ho

MPAA Rating: R

The 2019 Best Picture Winner from South Korea was an international hit, and rightfully so. It combines genre elements of comedy, thriller, crime, mystery, and drama to tell the story of the destitute Park family, who, one by one, leech off the wealthy Kim family by posing as homely assistants. It’s incredibly engaging and entertaining and shows its message of classism with excellent visual metaphors.

 

The Truman Show (1998)

Director: Peter Weir

MPAA Rating: PG

Transitioning into a more dramatic role, Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, a man whose entire life has been a reality television show broadcast to audiences all over the world… and he doesn’t even know it. It’s a very interesting and thought-provoking concept, and one which was ahead of its time. Carrey is phenomenal in this role as he unravels the mystery of what his life has been, with a very satisfying ending.

 

The Princess Bride (1987)

Director: Rob Reiner

MPAA Rating: PG

Maybe the best adventure ever put to screen, The Princess Bride is full of lovable characters and iconic moments. It’s got the charm of a timeless story that doesn’t change on a rewatch. The atmosphere is fantastic and the humor is Monty Python-esque, with a nice fairytale touch. And the scene where Inigo Montoya avenges his father… perfect.

 

HBO Max

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

MPAA Rating: R

For the latter half of the 2000s, the Coens went through a set of projects that all sought not to explain, but to embody, the concept of fate. Burn After Reading and A Serious Man are among these, but it’s No Country that does this job with the most flare, poignancy, and style. This was one of the first films that taught me the power that this medium holds, and how effective it can be at portraying ambivalence, the duality of man, and the human condition. Javier Bardem won Best Supporting Actor for his role as psychopath Anton Chigurh, and his performance alone is reason enough to watch this incredible film.

 

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Director: Edgar Wright

MPAA Rating: R

Hot Fuzz is probably the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s a parody of cop films in which London’s best officer is sent to a quaint village because he makes the rest of the force look bad. The inciting incident is funny enough, but the amount of recurring gags, over-the-top editing, and unnecessary violence really nails this as an ingenious comedy film. Beneath it all is a subtly expressed, sorrowful story that isn’t even necessary, but Wright goes the extra kilometer by giving it to us anyway. 

 

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Director: Taika Waititi

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Jojo Rabbitmocks the insanity of the Hitler Youth program while simultaneously telling the heartfelt story of a German boy who learns his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home. The changes that our protagonist goes through are relatable in the sense that hatred stems from blind ignorance which we can all experience as children, even if this film places this theme under extreme circumstances. Roman Griffin Davis is phenomenal in his lead role and the rest of the cast is fantastic as well.

 

Amazon Prime Video

Sound of Metal (2020)

Director: Darius Marder

MPAA Rating: R

Sound of Metal is the breakout film from previously unknown director Darius Marder. It follows a heavy metal drummer who begins to lose his hearing as he must adapt to his disability. The performances are great and the story and script are realistic and create empathy effectively. There is some incredible sound design to be offered as our protagonist loses his hearing and tests out different cochlear implants, trying to grasp onto his normal life; acceptance is a major theme, and it’s displayed with maturity.

 

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Directors: Michael Schwartz, Taylor Nilson

MPAA Rating: PG-13

This film follows a sketchy fisherman who, through a twist of fate, takes a runaway down-syndrome patient to achieve his dream of professional wrestling. This film really is about the journey instead of the destination. The Louisiana climate is captured in a hazy, warm romanticization, as our leads grow as friends and as individuals. There’s hardly anything more heartwarming than this movie, which does it with zero pretentiousness.

 

One Night In Miami… (2020)

Director: Regina King 

MPAA Rating: R

A fictional account of four real men at the height of the Civil Rights movement, One Night In Miami is adapted from the play of the same name. Although there’s little to be offered on a visual note, the dialogue and performances are excellent and very effective at creating an intriguing dynamic between each man— Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Jim Brown— as they celebrate Ali’s recent boxing victory. There is a lot to dissect about what this film can say when it comes to civil rights and the roles played within it, but it’s best to let the movie do the talking. 

 

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