Bronson. Bronson! BRONSON!
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 to watch this September on Hulu.
Pick of the Month: Mr. Majestyk (1974)
Vince Majestyk (Charles Bronson) is a melon farmer, but don’t confuse that with him being a fool. All he wants is to harvest his melons on time using fair labor practices, but neither the local law nor the mob seem interested in letting that happen. This Elmore Leonard-penned flick (that he then novelized) is rarely listed among Bronson’s most popular, but it remains one of my favorites thanks to some solid action, great dialogue, and an important life lesson – never get between a man and his melons.
The Mechanic (1972)
Arthur Mechanic (Bronson) is getting too old for this shit – the shit in question being his work as a hit man – and reluctantly takes on an apprentice (Jan-Michael Vincent) as he approaches retirement. Hit man-related violence ensues. Jason Statham’s 2011 remake has its merits, but director Michael Winner’s original is a grittier, more down to earth action film that benefits from the Bronson/Vincent dynamic and a killer ending.
Breakheart Pass (1975)
John Breakheart (Bronson) is a prisoner being transported by train in the late 1800’s, but as they wind their way through the mountains of the midwest towards an army fort the journey turns into Murder on the Fort Humboldt Express. Part mystery, part western, and all Bronson, this is a solid little action/adventure that starts slow but builds up momentum as more bodies hit the floor.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
An alien invasion strikes earth not with flying saucers but with vegetation as small plants spread with the rain before cloning and replacing people around San Francisco. A small group of friends and strangers begin to suspect the truth, but it may be too late to matter. Jack Finney’s novel has been adapted multiple times, but Philip Kaufman’s late ’70s entry remains the best thanks to a tremendous cast (Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Karen Allen, Leonard Nimoy), a brilliant sense of paranoia, and a tremendously haunting ending. This is one of the best horror/sci-fi hybrids out there and belongs in every genre fan’s eyeballs.
Red Dawn (1984)
It’s a normal day in Colorado as teens mill about doing what teens do, but they’re forced to grow up fast when enemy soldiers from Cuba and the Soviet Union roll over the hills and drop from the sky. The remake is slicker and far less thrilling, but the original is a fun adventure featuring a cast of ’80s stars like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, and Lea Thompson. It scratches that Toy Soldiers itch too of seeing kids/teens forced into a deadly encounter.
At Close Range (1986)
Two brothers (Sean Penn, Chris Penn) spend their days in Pennsylvania with booze, drugs, and other sketchy antics, but when their criminal father (Christopher Walken) comes back to town their lives take a dark turn. The brothers and their friends find themselves pulled slowly under the charismatic thief’s wing with tragic results. Based on a true story, the film captures the bleak reality of the poverty and lack of morality that led to it all. Penn is fantastic here, and Walken doesn’t let the seriousness of the tale get in the way of him delivering a handful of pure Walken moments. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out that this is prime short-haired Mary Stuart Masterson material, and honestly that alone is some kind of wonderful.
Get Shorty (1995)
A mobster (John Travolta) heads to Hollywood to collect on a debt, but while he’s there he decides on a whim to make a career change. He decides he wants to be a movie producer and soon discovers the film business is every bit as shifty, duplicitous, and fun as the gangster life. Pulp Fiction is championed as Travolta’s comeback film, but this Elmore Leonard adaptation from the following year makes far better use of his talents. It’s also highly quotable and re-watchable thanks in part to an absolutely terrific Gene Hackman.
From Dusk til Dawn (1996)
Two criminal brothers, one smooth (George Clooney) and one sick (Quentin Tarantino), rob a bank and take hostages, but they meet their match after visiting a strip club frequented by vampires. This remains the most purely entertaining Robert Rodriguez film as it moves smartly from thriller to horror all while maintaining a grim and goofy sense of humor. It’s gory fun and remains one of the few times where Tarantino in front of the camera isn’t a wholly annoying experience.
American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a successful investment banker in New York City by day and a twisted sociopath by night. Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel gets a smart, blackly comic adaptation that finds the humor in the horror while also serving as social commentary, and not for nothing, but the scene with Bateman trying to feed a kitten to an ATM is comedy gold.
The Others (2001)
A woman (Nicole Kidman) and her two children pass the time in their large home waiting for their husband/father to return from the battlefields of WWII, but they grow to believe they’re not alone. Something is haunting the rooms and halls around them. This film is remembered most for its legitimately cool ending, but the entirety is a solidly atmospheric chiller well worth your time.
Young Adult (2011)
Mavis (Charlize Theron) is a successful writer whose recent divorce sees her returning to her hometown in search of an old love (Patrick Wilson). He’s happily married, but she’s not about to let that stop her. Jason Reitman’s best film is not for everyone – it’s a caustic, bitter, cruel kind of comedy – but even if you fail to find the humor in it all the sharp writing and strong performances (including Patton Oswalt) make it a must-see film.
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