Moviegoer: Independence Day Movies

Robert Shaw in Jaws.

Celebrate the founding of our nation with films that examine the American Dream 

This year, we’ll all be celebrating the founding of our nation a little differently. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to grill with a mask on or how socially distant you need to be to set off fireworks, this year’s festivities are likely to be unique. Consider watching a few films that showcase what makes our nation great and the American Dream we all strive for.  

Disney+: Hamilton 

Orphan Alexander Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda) arrives in New York determined to make something of himself. His brash nature and dogged work ethic soon make him a powerful figure. When the American Revolution breaks out Hamilton positions himself to help shape the new country of America.  

A filmed version of the blockbuster Broadway show, Hamilton brings the stage production to television. The movie will feature the Broadway cast, the full musical score (minus two F-bombs so the production could earn a PG-13 rating), and the original stripped-down settings that won the film so much acclaim. Though many people already know the lyrics by heart, the chance to see the production as it appeared on Broadway is a rare treat.  

If you’re a fan of Miranda’s brilliant lyrics or always dreamed of seeing the show on Broadway, this is the ultimate must-watch. And if you’re still in the mood for musical founding fathers, remember that the classic musical 1776 is available to rent on Amazon.  

Great Musical * PG-13 * 160 mins.  

Netflix: Turn: Washington’s Spies 

The American Revolution was on shaky ground when the Founding Fathers first convinced the colonies to take up arms against Britain. English soldiers had better training and strategy, easily besting the revolutionaries in most skirmishes. The Americans needed help, by way of inside information.  

Thus, the Culpepper Ring was born. A group of spies comprised mostly of farmers set out to help America win their independence. Can the group turn the tide of the war? 

Chances are since we’re celebrating the Fourth of July, you know that the Culpepper Ring was successful, but this 40-episode television series is a thrilling look at a largely forgotten piece of American history. The show is a master exercise in tension building, with brilliant performances from Jamie Bell and Heather Lind. If you’re looking for a grittier look at the founding of our country, Turn is an excellent choice. 

Good Drama * PG-13 * 60 min. episodes 

Prime: Air Force One 

On his way home from a diplomatic event, President James Marshall (Harrison Ford), his staff, and his family are held hostage by Kazakhstani terrorist Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman). When Marshall evades capture, it’s up to him to foil the terrorist plot and save his family. As Marshall fights his way toward Egor, the U.S. government is in crisis: With the President compromised, is it time to use the 25th Amendment and bring the Vice President (Glenn Close) to power?   

What’s more American than a good old-fashioned action movie; featuring plenty of explosions, fights, and one-liners, Air Force One is a classic example of a ‘90s action movie. Director Wolfgang Petersen brings the thrills with a bombastic approach to cinematography and wisely developing tertiary characters to make each death heart-wrenching. The film even has presidential approval: Bill Clinton screened the film in the White House twice and Donald Trump mentioned his admiration for the movie on the campaign trail. 

Good Action * R * 124 mins.  

Hulu: Culture Shock (Into the Dark) 

Marisol (Martha Higareda) has dreamed of a better life in America since she was young. After a failed crossing and an assault leaves her pregnant and still in Mexico, Marisol is more determined than ever to realize her American Dream. When her next attempted crossing goes wrong, Marisol wakes up in Cape Joy – the picture-perfect American town. Marisol is welcomed to the community, but something’s off. People smile too much, the patriotism is a little forced, and then there’s the little fact that Marisol didn’t speak English when she came to America but now seems to be fluent.  

Hulu’s Into the Dark horror anthology series is a mixed bag of holiday-themed stand-alone films. But director Gigi Saul Guerrero offers a brilliant satire of the American Dream and the reality many face when coming to our country. 

Guerrero transforms the typical suburban dream into a nightmare, with colors that are just a touch too bright and people who are frighteningly friendly. It’s a brilliant combination of Tim Burton and David Lynch that also evokes Get Out and The Purge. If 2020 has left you ready to take a hard look at American values and systems, this might be the movie to check out.  

Good Horror * R * 91 mins. 

HBO GO: Jaws 

As the island of Amity gears up for its tourist season, Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) has a problem: It seems a great white shark has turned the beach into a personal buffet. Though Brody wants to close the beaches to keep the public safe, the mayor insists on opening to save the economy. Sound familiar? 

When the problem doesn’t go away, Brody must put a ragtag team together to hunt down the shark before it feasts on any more tourists. Out on the open ocean, with the giant shark swimming rings around them, Brody realizes he may be outmatched.  

A classic Fourth of July flick, Jaws is a brilliant monster movie and a pretty good reason to skip the beach this weekend. The film was also one of the first summer blockbusters, creating a tradition of studios releasing their “big ticket” films in the summer. Jaws is also   the film that put Steven Spielberg on the map. The legendary director uses clever camera tricks to keep the tension high, even when you can’t see the shark. If you’re bummed your beach weekend is canceled, give Jaws a watch and you won’t regret skipping the crowds.  

Great Monster Movie * PG * 124 mins.