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Take a break from March Madness to stream some of these great films

Jeffrey M. Anderson | March 30, 2015
If you enjoyed my profile of Fandor earlier this week, you should definitely stream the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, currently available on Netflix. It's not only a moving portrait of a passionate man, but it's also a movie lover's movie, filled with praises and pans. It's hard to watch and not get excited about the possibilities of movies in general.

Best Seller

Some crime films don't really attempt to be much more than an entertaining "B" movie, which is the case with Best Seller (1987). Brian Dennehy plays a big city cop who, after surviving an armed robbery of the police evidence room, publishes a best-selling crime novel. While struggling to write a follow-up, he's approached by the incredibly charming, snaky Cleve (James Woods). Cleve claims to have been a hired killer for a huge corporate bigwig, and offers to give Dennis all the dirt he needs for new book. Of course, this gets them into no end of trouble.

Screenwriter Larry Cohen was already a legendary "B" movie director with things like Black Caesar (1973), It's Alive (1974), and The Stuff (1984) on his resume, while director John Flynn had made the drive-in classic Rolling Thunder (1977). Together they concentrate on character interactions, shootouts, and chases, with things like plot and motivation taking a back seat. The slick, 1980s design does the rest. Ben E. King sings a particularly cheesy end-credits theme song.

Rules of Engagement 

At one point, director William Friedkin was the most powerful filmmaker in Hollywood, having won a bunch of Oscars for The French Connection, and directing one of the highest-grossing films of all time with The Exorcist. After that, there was no place to go but down, and he has spent the subsequent years making terrific films that rarely get noticed. As with his best films, Rules of Engagement (2000) has a studied realism, a knowledge of the way things work, but also one eye on the idea that not everything is always as it seems.

Samuel L. Jackson plays a U.S. Marine who is court-martialed after a mission in Yemen, and Tommy Lee Jones plays the Marine lawyer hired to defend him. The best scenes take place in the courtroom, with crackling cross-examinations and deceptions, though the battlefield scenes in Yemen are equally explosive. The movie occasionally veers off course for some character development and subplot, but the majority of it stays on track, and both Jones and Jackson are absolutely magnetic.

Must-watch movies on Hulu Plus

Seven Samurai 

If you know anything about movies, you've heard about this milestone. And if you are any kind of film buff, you've seen it. Either way, the magnificently restored, remastered Criterion version streaming on Hulu Plus is not to missed. A masterpiece in every way, Akira Kurosawa's three hour and 26 minute Seven Samurai (1954) tells the story of a small farming community that is frequently raided by evil brigands; the farmers get the idea to hire a group of samurai (or, specifically, masterless samurai called "ronin") to defend them, but can offer no more payment than a bit of rice.

 

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