Netflix isn’t exactly known for adventurous film programming, but their February lineup is even more geared toward comfort cinema than usual — not that we’re complaining. The world is a cold place these days, so it’s worth celebrating life’s small pleasures; say what you will about the state of our union, but we now live in a world where you can watch “Ocean’s Twelve” on your watch. Steven Soderbergh’s criminally underrated masterpiece is only one of the reliable standbys coming to the streaming giant this month: the heist sequel is joined by a Martin Scorsese classic, Quentin Tarantino’s two best movies, a current Oscar nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film, and more.
Here are the seven best films coming to Netflix this month.
7. “Mute” (2018)
Full disclosure: We haven’t actually seen Duncan Jones’ new film yet, but anything from the visionary director of “Warcraft” deserves a spot on your watchlist [shudders violently]. In all seriousness, Jones — who also made “Moon” and “Source Code” — is one of the more talented and exciting young filmmakers working in the world of original sci-fi, and we can’t wait to watch him rebound from that sloppy orc debacle with a true-blue passion project that he’s been hoping to get made for years.
Heavily inspired by “Blade Runner” and billed as a spiritual successor to “Moon,” the futuristic neo-noir follows a mute bartender (Alexander Skarsgård) in 2058 Berlin as he searches for his missing girlfriend while dealing with two American surgeons named Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd) and Duck Teddington (Justin Theroux). Judging by the genre alone, this sounds like the kind of thing that would be suited to the big screen, but that only makes it more of an interesting trial for the streaming giant; Will people be able to enjoy the full scale of Jones’ vision on their laptops, tablets, and TVs?
Available to stream starting February 23rd.
6. “Men in Black” (1997)
It’s genuinely amazing how well this movie has held up. Back in 1997, it felt like empty calories — just another disposable summer blockbuster to enjoy with the family on Big Willie Weekend — but Barry Sonnenfeld’s best film (yep) is an immaculately constructed piece of popcorn entertainment, a sublime artifact from a time when major studios were still growing franchises from scratch, creating new fans on the strength of raw star power and rock-solid storytelling.
Built atop a wonderfully efficient screenplay (almost every line stands out), “Men in Black” drops viewers into a fleshed-out film universe that feels like “Ghostbusters” on steroids — bigger, funnier, and full out of animatronics so good that you start to feel like special effects actually peaked 20 years ago. The chemistry between the curmudgeonly Tommy Lee Jones and the hyper-charismatic Will Smith is legitimately out of this world, the two of them bouncing jokes off each other like they’ve been working their act on the road for 25 years. Throw in Vincent D’Onofrio as a giant space cockroach and top it off with that mini-speech about how everybody knew the Earth was flat, and not only do you have one of the most purely entertaining event movies of the ’90s, you also have one of the only plausible explanations for what’s happened since.
Available to stream starting February 1st.
5. “On Body and Soul” (2017)
Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi’s muted, lightly fantastical romance has been on quite the journey for the past year. After winning the prestigious top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, the movie then disappeared without a trace, barely making a peep on the North American festival circuit. But this striking and highly unusual love story tends to leave an impression with anyone who watches it, and once Hungary offered the movie as their country’s official Oscar submission, we weren’t surprised to see that it made the shortlist, or that it ultimately scored an actual nomination. It even has a pretty decent shot to win the whole shebang. As Netflix increasingly becomes a safety net for subtitled fare that can’t score U.S. distribution, expect to see more top-tier foreign fare like this pop up on the service.
Here’s what IndieWire’s Eric Kohn had to say about the film last year:
This year’s Gold Bear winner has the whimsical plot of a Michel Gondry movie, but its perspective on the alienation of the workplace and the universality of desire is completely original. It follows slaughterhouse manager Endre (Géza Morcsányi) and his shy new employee Mária (Alexandra Borbély) as they gradually discover that they share the same dreams, exploring a snowy landscape in animal form. That potentially laughable concept takes on an elevated poetic quality as both characters learn to come out of their shells through the strange phenomenon that brings them together. Carried by convincing turns by its two leads and a mesmerizing tone thick with mystery, ‘On Body and Soul’ builds to an emotional climax that makes it one of the most original love stories in recent memory. Audiences are likely to be satisfied with the way the movie positions a love story in fresh light.
Available to stream starting February 2nd.
4. “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004)
Steven Soderbergh has always thought of himself as more of a synthesist than an originator, more of a collage artist than a bonafide auteur. Unlike Quentin Tarantino, Soderbergh tends to be more in service to his influences than his influences are in service to him. But if that’s true — as the filmmaker humbly swears that it is — why do so many of his best movies feel like they couldn’t possibly have been made by anyone else?
How fitting, then, that the most idiosyncratic studio picture Soderbergh has ever made was actually based on the script for a different film. Retrofitting George Nolfi’s “Honor Among Thieves” into a dazzling, go-for-broke sequel about the difficulty of making sequels, “Ocean’s Twelve” was a victim of its own ingenuity (a fate to which its director can certainly relate). Less of a heist movie than it is an abstract investigation of the genre and its expectations, this immensely fun caper has the audacity to make the audience into its primary mark, and that pissed off a lot of people. They’ll come around. Once you’re in on the joke, it’s so much fun to watch Soderbergh weaponize the glitz and glamor of his most incredible cast, using all of that plutonium-grade charisma as a means to distract us from the con at hand; not only is the Julia Roberts sequence the hilarious coup de grâce of a blockbuster that plays inside baseball better than “Full Frontal” ever could, it also gets to the heart of what the “Ocean’s” movies are all about: the seduction of star power.
Available to stream starting February 1st.
3. “Goodfellas” (1990)
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” A quick word of warning for anyone who’s thinking about watching “Goodfellas” on Netflix: You’re not just going to watch the first few scenes. You’re not just going to put it on in the background while you surf Instagram or spam your friends with the “Paddington 2” stickers you hypothetically paid real money for on the app store. No, you’re going to sit there at Martin Scorsese’s mercy for 145 minutes, slowly forgetting that the world exists beyond the frame of your tablet or television screen or Apple Watch or whatever device you choose to denigrate the cinema. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve watched Joe Pesci make that kid dance or Ray Liotta snort coke like he (and the cinematographer) were both doing it for real, this movie will have you in its clutches from the moment Henry Hill introduces himself to the moment he resigns to his life as a schnook.
Scorsese may not be over the moon about people streaming his work, but we’d sooner watch this modern classic on an Apple Watch than on the “flipper” DVD that you had to get up, eject, and turn over halfway through. Remember that thing? How did any of us survive such dark times?
Available to stream starting February 1st.
2. “Kill Bill: Volume 2” (2004)
1. “Kill Bill: Volume 1” (2003)
The most unabashedly fetishistic film that Quentin Tarantino has ever made — maybe one of the most unabashedly fetishistic films that anyone has ever made — “Kill Bill” is a lovingly pornographic orgy in which all of its creator’s favorite things get together and screw each other to death with the fatal specificity of a serial killer. It’s the most Quentin Tarantino movie that Quentin Tarantino will ever make, the electric work of someone projecting his soul on screen.
The epic two-part saga of the Bride (Uma Thurman) who’s jilted on her wedding day, survives a bullet to the head, and then vows to hunt down the squad of assassins who wronged her, “Kill Bill” is Tarantino’s purest and most passionate story of revenge. It’s the story of the scorpion and the frog writ larger than life and diced up into a casserole of East Asian and Western influences, a heartfelt pastiche that grows unexpectedly moving when it transitions into an earnest examination of love — romantic, maternal, or otherwise — as what happens when you let the world change your nature, when what you are dissolves into who you’ve become. Appropriately, Tarantino’s most exuberant pastiche becomes his purest self-expression.
Both movies available to stream starting February 1st.