New titles for the new year: A guide to Netflix and Hulu's January offerings

by Lauren Segal and Florida Huff | 1/7/21 2:00am

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by Lauren Segal / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The start of the new year heralds change — often in the form of New Year’s resolutions, but also when it comes to new titles on our favorite streaming services. With the arrival of 2021, Netflix and Hulu have welcomed a slew of classic titles to their collections. Wondering what movies you should watch from the comfort of your home or dorm room? Look no further: Here are our favorite “new” old movies to enjoy in the brand new year.

If you are a Netflix user:

Superbad

“Superbad” (2007) is the gift that keeps on giving. The classic coming-of-age comedy remains entertaining no matter how many times you watch it. In this film — which propelled the now Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill to fame — soon-to-be high school graduates Seth (Hill), Evan (Michael Cera) and Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), also known as McLovin, aspire to lose their virginities and party copiously before leaving for college. While the film is most definitely a comedy, its depiction of friendship is heartwarming and endearing — when you look past the nonstop profanity. 

Lead actors Cera and Hill display excellent chemistry throughout the film and remind us jaded college students of the simple, fun-filled days of high school. For Dartmouth-affiliated viewers, it’s also entertaining to hear the characters discuss Dartmouth — where Evan and McLovin are enrolled — throughout the film. Whether you’re finally watching it for the first time, or interested in a rewatch, “Superbad” delivers a hilarious, lighthearted story guaranteed to brighten even the most gloomy of New England winters.


Catch Me If You Can

Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar in 2016 for “The Revenant,” culminating a decades-long fight for the most prestigious award in the film industry. But DiCaprio’s raw talent has been unmistakeable throughout his career, especially in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can” (2002). The biographical crime film tells the true story of teenage con artist Frank Abagnale (DiCaprio), who impersonates a doctor, lawyer and pilot and forges checks worth millions of dollars. Abagnale is tailed by FBI agent Carl Henratty (Tom Hanks), and the two engage in a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse crossing international borders, with Abagnale seemingly always one step ahead of the agent. 

DiCaprio’s portrayal of Abagnale is wonderfully complex — the character’s carefree and jovial nature masks a deeper current of pain stemming from Abagnale’s parents’ messy separation, all perfectly captured in DiCaprio’s performance. The film similarly straddles the line between lightheartedness and depth, providing a flashy and fun account of Abagnale’s life as an impostor while weaving in darker notes of heartbreak and death. The result is a compelling and engaging ride that is well worth a watch.


17 Again

Some of us would rather jump off a bridge than relive high school all over again — but in “17 Again” (2009), Mike O’Donnell (Matthew Perry and Zac Efron) does literally that, falling into a time vortex that transforms him from 37 years old to 17. O’Donnell is determined to do over his high school experience the right way, as his dreams of earning a college basketball scholarship had been dashed by his girlfriend’s pregnancy. But O’Donnell soon realizes that the real purpose of his newfound youth is to protect his children, now in high school themselves, from bullies and abusive boyfriends and to save his marriage from impending collapse.

“17 Again'' could have easily fallen into overused tropes and cheesy dialogue, but the film is made refreshing by the outstanding performances of the leads and the hilarity of the script. Efron’s acting is phenomenal, effortlessly portraying cool guy charm and lovesick pining — and it doesn’t hurt that we get to see a repeat performance of the basketball skills we all admired in “High School Musical.” The side plot of O’Donnell’s Star Wars-obsessed best friend seducing the high school principal brings another element of quirky humor to the film, cementing “17 Again” as a perfect blend of sweetness, comedy and high school sentimentality.


If you are a Hulu user:

The Princess Bride

“The Princess Bride” (1987) is a cult classic, and no wonder — the beloved fantasy has it all, from pirates, giants and royals to witty, quotable dialogue and swashbuckling action scenes. The film narrates the story of Buttercup (Robin Wright), a beautiful young woman who becomes engaged to the odious Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) after her true love Westley (Cary Elwes) is believed to have been killed in a pirate attack. When Buttercup is kidnapped by three outlaws, rescue comes from an unlikely source, and romance and adventure ensue. 

“The Princess Bride” features some of the most memorable characters in the fantasy genre, but also a slew of iconic one-liners that have stood the test of time. Combined with imaginative world-building, swoon-worthy romance and thrilling sword-fighting scenes, the result is a film that manages to thoroughly entertain on both the first watch and the hundredth.


Dead Poets Society

What better way to forget about the snow and cold of New England than by watching a group of high school students learn about the meaning of life in it? In this iconic 1989 drama, English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) encourages his students at a stuffy all-boys prep school to find meaning beyond the expectations of their parents and the school. Seven students, inspired by Keating’s lessons, create the Dead Poets Society, a secret group that convenes to read poetry in a dark cave. “Dead Poets Society” never fails to blanket viewers in the warm, venerable feeling of New England academia, all while weaving together the complex lives and emotions of the leading teenagers in a story that proves at times melancholy but ultimately inspiring.


Shrek

“Shrek” (2001) is a classic for a reason. From popular children’s animation to viral internet memes, the film has proven that, even 20 years after its release, it has yet to lose relevance in popular culture. The film follows the story of Shrek (Mike Myers), a solitary and surly ogre who is hired by the sleazy Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) in return for ownership of Shrek’s swamp, which was overrun by a horde of fairytale creatures. While “Shrek” follows a fantastical premise that would engage any young viewer, an older audience can enjoy innuendos that might have gone over their heads when they were younger and the pure cinematic genius that is the boxing match scene. Filled with iconic lines and unexpected twists on your typical “Once upon a time …” story, “Shrek” provides the perfect upbeat movie for a Saturday night.


Crazy, Stupid, Love

There’s a subtle art to making a good romantic comedy — believable romance, fresh humor and avoiding the overused tropes that too many rom-coms fall into. “Crazy, Stupid, Love” (2011) stands as one of the best romantic comedies in recent history, steering clear of everything that gives rom-coms a bad rap and offering a new take on the genre. The film follows Cal (Steve Carell) in his efforts to rejoin the dating scene after his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) requests a divorce. Cal finds an unlikely ally in local playboy Jacob (Ryan Gosling), who offers to teach him the art of seduction. Gosling and his on-screen partner Emma Stone have incredible chemistry — the scene in which the duo perform the iconic lift from “Dirty Dancing” highlights the characters’ natural banter and genuine connection. But the real winner of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the friendship between Cal and Jacob, which is delightfully amusing and surprisingly endearing. With its captivating romance and intelligent humor, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a rom-com guaranteed to entertain.

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