A new year with new resolutions may be upon us, but chances are you’ll still sometimes find yourself scrolling through Netflix instead of exercising or studying. (No shame here.) Or perhaps your resolution is precisely to watch more Netflix. Whatever the case, the new year has brought a fresh batch of releases on the streaming platform. You can now revisit cult classics like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or “The Addams Family,” continue binge-watching shows like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” or check out some of Netflix’s newest original specials. There’s plenty more where “Bird Box” came from.
In the drama category, there’s the Nigerian movie “Lionheart,” the first Nollywood flick Netflix has acquired. It follows a young woman named Adaeze (Genevieve Nnaji) as she tries to navigate her father’s company through financial trouble in a business world dominated by men, most notably her uncle.
The film champions feminism as a quest for the empowerment of all genders. There are clear male antagonists, sure, but every character is flawed and almost all of them grow and change — the headstrong female learns that she need not defeat her male counterparts to achieve success but lead alongside them, and the men learn to respect her voice and abilities in turn. The lead actress is just as commanding in real life as onscreen: in addition to starring in the film, Nnaji is the director, a writer and an executive producer. If you need a push of motivation to ace an interview or tackle a daunting project, “Lionheart” will inspire you.
This movie is fairly uplifting for a drama. If you prefer something explicitly in the comedy category, however, you can watch “The Last Laugh.” Chevy Chase stars as Al Hart, a talent manager who reunites with his old client, Buddy Green (Richard Dreyfuss), at the retirement home in which they reluctantly reside. To find something more fulfilling in life than lasagna night, Al organizes a cross-country tour for Buddy to perform as a stand-up comic for the first time in 50 years, with the end goal of making it to New York and booking “The Tonight Show.”
Watching this film is kind of like watching your grandpa try to be “hip,” because that’s exactly what Al and Buddy do: avoid acknowledging for as long as possible that they are old people themselves. Their road trip takes them through their wild phase — you know, the one normally associated with college — 60 years late. There are enough witty jabs and passably-funny stand-up sets to provide your fix of laughs until the next Stove’s Cabin Crew show, but the real comedy lies in watching these old men flirt, smoke and wear mascara in public. Amidst the countless comedies out there, it’s somewhat forgettable, but it’s a heartwarming and lighthearted romp. You’ll come away extra grateful to still be young.
Finally, in the musical category, I recommend “Taylor Swift reputation Stadium Tour.” If you didn’t watch it right on New Year’s Day, it’s not too late to start the year off with a bang. Flashy and theatrical as ever, Swift’s performance in Texas this past year is simply gorgeous to watch. She intersperses her “reputation” hits with a mashup of older classics like “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” to satisfy new and old Swifties alike. Her mellow medley of “Long Live” and “New Year’s Day” is a highlight, as is her “I Did Something Bad” rendition that goes to the other extreme of hard-hitting edginess. You’ll definitely enjoy it more if you’re a Swift fan, but it’s a captivating show regardless.
Like any movie musical, it has a narrative: a woman seeks inspiration from and connection with her past while still moving forward as an artist and person. The old Taylor may be dead, but as the film triumphantly states, “in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive.” If the film achieves one noteworthy thing, the announcement of Swift’s “death” in “Look What You Made Me Do” becomes compelling instead of cringeworthy when Tiffany Haddish delivers it.
“Velvet Buzzsaw” (Feb. 1): This thriller starring Natalia Dyer and Jake Gyllenhaal is for those impatiently waiting for “Stranger Things” to return. A struggling artist hits the jackpot after discovering (and exploiting) work by another obscure artist. The problem is, the contempt contained in the art is a supernatural force of its own and it’s out for blood.
“High Flying Bird” (Feb. 8): This drama film follows a sports agent who pitches a controversial business opportunity to a rookie during a basketball lockout. It is director Steven Soderbergh’s second movie to be shot entirely on an iPhone following the Claire Foy-led “Unsane,” making it a choice to intrigue sports fans and student filmmakers alike.
“Wine Country” (TBA): This movie is for SNL fans who don’t want to camp out in front of 30 Rock (again) to see their favorite comics. Amy Poehler directs a squad of funny women led by Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph in this film, which is inspired by a girls’ trip they took together and the riotous times they had.