Classics, genre gems, and a honey-covered Bo Derek.
I’m here to tell you that there’s a cinematic streaming goldmine available on Hulu that includes recent hits, older classics, domestic releases, and foreign imports. It’s even home to hundreds of Criterion titles (for now). Sure there’s plenty of filler and seemingly thousands of titles I’ve never heard of before, but I’m here to recommend some good movies (and maybe even some “good” movies) to watch this October on Hulu.
Pick of the Month: Pontypool (2008)
A virus is spreading through the city, but rather than be transmitted via fluids or bites this particular zombie-like illness is being shared through spoken words. Bruce McDonald’s unique, single-location thriller understands the power of language as evident by both its plot and its dialogue. The characters here are smart, funny, and believable, and as the terror grows it’s both fascinating and frightening.
A Los Angeles private eye (Jack Nicholson) is hired to catch a cheating spouse, but the trail leads to murder, corruption, and an inescapable conspiracy. Can you believe some people have gone decades as movie lovers without ever seeing this marvelously bleak noir? It’s true, and after finally watching it earlier this year I’ve – I mean that hypothetical film fan – realized it’s a goddamn masterpiece. Everything from the performances, to Roman Polanski’s direction, to Robert Towne’s script is pure Hollywood perfection.
A new kid (Andrew McCarthy) at an elite private school has a tough time fitting in but finds acceptance in an older woman’s (Jacqueline Bisset) bed before realizing she’s his roommate’s (Rob Lowe) mom. There are so many recognizable faces in this movie – John Cusack! Alan Ruck! Cliff Robertson! Virginia Madsen! Joan Cusack! – and while seeing their younger selves is fun the film itself is actually a pretty solid coming of age tale to boot. Some laughs, some heart, some rousing dramatic beats, this is an under seen piece of ’80s cinema.
A young woman (Bo Derek) searches the world for the perfect lover. In case you missed it in the intro above, this is a list of good movies and “good” movies. This is obviously one of the latter. The film is ridiculous – Derek can’t act, but the script would even be a challenge for Meryl Streep – and the only reason I’ve included it here is to pay tribute to the honey scene. As a teen with access to pay cable the scene became a late-night staple at my house. Just don’t tell my mom.
Quigley Down Under (1990)
An American sharpshooter (Tom Selleck) is hired by a wealthy Australian (Alan Rickman) to help take care of vermin on his ranch, but upon his arrival he discovers the pests in question are Aborigines. My dad loves this movie. It’s good, and both Selleck and Rickman do charismatic work as hero and villain, and my dad flat-out loves it. It’ll make him happy if you give it a watch.
True Colors (1991)
Peter (John Cusack) and Tim (James Spader) become fast friends at law school, but after graduation the two finds themselves entering the world of politics and moving in ethically-combative opposing directions. This is a solid little thriller in every respect, but one of its greatest appeals is seeing bad boy Spader play the good guy while the typically lighter Cusack takes on the morally-compromised politician. Real-world politics are so dull right now, so this offers a fun alternative.
Groundhog Day (1993)
A prickish weather man (Bill Murray) finds himself trapped in a small, quirky town as he wakes up every day to discover it’s the same day all over again. Do I really need to point out that Harold Ramis’ film is a comedy classic that’s almost impossible to turn off once it starts? No, I don’t. Watch it again.
Air Force One (1997)
Russian terrorists hijack the US President’s (Harrison Ford) plane, and only he can prevent a global disaster. The current presidential race is a memorable one for all the wrong reasons, so it’s good to take a step back once in a while to recognize cinema’s greatest American president. Ford is at his most heroic, Gary Oldman at his most Russian, and it’s just a solid action/thriller through to the very end.
Three friends on a cross-country road trip try to fill the time playing games on the CB radio, but when they prank the wrong trucker they find themselves targeted by the humorless driver. Director John Dahl shifts his taste for noir-ish thrills into overdrive with this more conventional game of cat and mouse, and all four leads – Paul Walker, Steve Zahn, Leelee Sobieski, the voice of Ted Levine – deliver compelling performances along the journey.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to the small village of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of gruesome murders, and he discovers it’s no mere mortal behind the crimes. This is arguably Tim Burton’s last great movie – sorry, Big Fish does little for me – as it balances the laughs and frights beautifully. Depp’s performance never annoys, the production design is stellar throughout, and Christopher Walken is just fantastic as the demonic Headless Horseman. It’s a great time at the movies.
A troubled young woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal) takes a job as a secretary to a demanding boss (James Spader), and they both find what they’re looking for in a sadomasochistic relationship. It sounds odd, but this is actually an incredibly sweet, sexy, romantic movie with two wonderfully committed lead performances. The couple have a rough road to happiness, but the ending sequence is a thing of beauty.