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All the Best Stuff on Netflix in September

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The first part of this September on Netflix is bursting with lots of good stuff.  There’s an acclaimed drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.  There’s another chance to binge the cinematic adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown.  Or try a Slamdance award winner about an aspiring filmmaker’s return to his gentrified neighborhood.  A documentary about how social media platforms and their algorithms are pushing their users to embrace extreme behavior could make you want to delete Facebook pronto.  

Wildlife

But the most hotly anticipated premiere might well be the new Charlie Kaufman movie.  It takes a familiar set-up (guy brings girlfriend to meet his parents) and turns it into weirdly entertaining mind-mangling.

(Note: The docuseries “Bad Boy Billionaires: India,” about four notorious Indian tycoons accused of serious financial crimes, would have been suggested too.  However, one of the tycoons featured in the series managed to get India’s courts to block Netflix’s release of the film.)

Now Available

Anaconda–Catch this good bad monster film before the remake arrives.  A documentary film crew led by director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) and cinematographer Danny (Ice Cube) find themselves in big trouble in the Amazon jungle.  They have to contend with lots of the titular giant snakes as well as the dangerous river rat Sarone (Jon Voight in high bad guy mode).  Viewers tired of seeing POC get killed by the monster first will cheer the sight of the white characters becoming monster kibble first. 

Back To The Future Trilogy–Wait, didn’t these adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown already come out a month or so ago?  Well, if you snoozed during the last Netflix release, maybe don’t miss this pop culture landmark again.  Yeah, the films were wrong on hands-free video games, but were very right about mobile payment technology.  And you can still laugh at the Pepsi Free and Calvin Klein time travel jokes.

Barbershop–For years, Calvin (Ice Cube)’s barbershop has been a local institution as a neighborhood meeting place.  However, not enough business is coming in to keep the doors open.  Tired of getting deeper into debt, Calvin finally gives in and secretly sells the barbershop to a local developer.  On what will be the shop’s last day of business, how will the news be broken to the shop’s regulars? 

Bookmarks

Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices–Want to introduce your kids to Black children’s literature, but don’t know where to start?  Then try this series hosted by Marley Dias (creator, #1000BlackGirlsBooks campaign).  In each episode, celebrities such as Tiffany Haddish and Common reads aloud an entire children’s book written by Black authors celebrating the Black experience.  Since each episode clocks in around five minutes, this makes the show a great bedtime story resource.

Borgen Seasons 1-3–This Danish political drama was praised by Stephen King as one of the best pieces of TV he’d ever seen.  Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is the low-key leader of the Moderate Party.  Through a freakish turn of events, Nyborg becomes Denmark’s first female prime minister.  However, as she soon learns, there’s a great deal of difference between taking office and knowing how to use the machinery of power.  And how much will professional success cost Nyborg personally?

Children Of The Sea–This anime fantasy adapts Daisuke Igarashi’s award-winning manga.  Ruka has been fascinated by the aquarium ever since she saw what looked like a ghost in the water years ago.  Two mysterious boys, Umi and Sora, share both Ruka’s fascination with the aquarium and the ability to hear strange calls from the sea.  But Ruka’s father and his fellow aquarium workers can’t worry about the children’s mysteries as they’re desperately trying to figure out why all the world’s oceans have suddenly emptied of fish.   

Magic Mike–In his younger days, actor Channing Tatum worked as a male stripper in Tampa.  Steven Soderbergh’s film draws on Tatum’s experiences to tell the story of how adrift 19-year-old The Kid gets drawn into the male stripping world via the titular character (Tatum).  Lots of naked muscular flesh will be seen (and leered over in some circles).  But the director never lets the viewer forget that beneath the sexual fantasies being played out on stage, stripping is still a job.

Magic Mike

The Muppets–This star-studded revival of Jim Henson’s beloved puppets manages to remind viewers why the antics of Kermit the Frog, The Great Gonzo, and Miss Piggy among others charmed the young at heart.  The story (the Muppet gang reassembles to save their old theater from evil real estate tycoon Tex Richman) matters less than seeing these felt puppets turn into larger than life characters once again.  And if you’re not signing along to “The Rainbow Connection” when the song pops up, you have no soul.  (Amusingly, a right-wing columnist tried claiming the film was indoctrinating kids in left-wing thought because it supposedly promoted hatred of the rich.)  

Pineapple Express–David Gordon Green’s comedy actioner took the bromance concept to a new level in film.  Process server Dale (Seth Rogen) loves a job that gives him the freedom to smoke dope on his down time.  Dope dealer Saul (James Franco) introduces Dale to the titular new marijuana hybrid, which smokes “like killing a unicorn.”  But the unfortunate discovery of a Pineapple Express joint eventually forces Dale and Saul to flee a murderous drug dealer.  Life on the run causes both men to grow unexpectedly emotionally closer.

Possession–Your bats**t craziness film quota for the month might be met by this film, provided Netflix is showing this 1981 film uncut and not the 2002 film of the same name.  Andrzej Zulawski’s film begins with the familiar scenario of wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani, giving a Cannes-winning performance) leaving her husband Mark (Sam Neill).  But tamer marital breakup films don’t have grotesque self-mutilation, sudden car crashes, or a tentacled monster designed by E.T. creator Carlo Rimbaldi.  This one does, especially since the film is inspired by the disintegration of Zulawski’s own marriage. 

The Promised Neverland Season 1–No, this anime has nothing to do with either Peter Pan or Michael Jackson.  Rather, it begins in the year 2045 at the orphanage known as Grace Field House.  Emma, Norman, and Ray are three residents of the orphanage.  They and the other kids have their needs attended to by Isabella, the house’s mother, until it’s time to send an orphan to a loving foster family.  When Emma and Norman accidentally discover the horrible truth about their perfect lives, the children plot to escape from the orphanage and find safety. 

Residue

Residue–The 2020 Slamdance Film Festival Audience Award winner for best narrative feature comes to Netflix thanks to Ava Du Vernay’s ARRAY Releasing.  Jay (Obinna Nwachukwu, who won an acting award at Slamdance for his performance) is an aspiring filmmaker.  After several years away, he returns to his native Washington, D.C. neighborhood only to find the place has been gentrified beyond recognition.  As the young filmmaker struggles to find a place for himself in this strange new neighborhood, he also has to deal with alienation from former friends and the disappearance of a loved one.

Sister Sister Seasons 1-6–The entire run of one of the 1990s’ iconic Black sitcoms comes to Netflix.  Tia and Tamera Mowry play twin sisters who were separated at birth and adopted by different households.  One day at the mall, the now 14-year-old sisters literally run into each other along with their now-single adoptive parents.  Both of the sisters’ adoptive parents agree their households should become one so the sisters can be reunited.  How the two girls manage to grow and adjust to each other forms the core of the series.

Wildlife–Paul Dano’s acclaimed directorial debut adapts Richard Ford’s novel about the disintegration of a family in early 1960s America.  The Brinson family lives a facade of the American dream in Montana.  When father Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job at the local golf course, wife Jeanne (Carey Mulligan) keeps the family going with a job at the YMCA.  But already, the cracks in the Brinsons’ 16-year marriage have started to show.  And when Jerry essentially abandons his family to fight wildfires, what will happen to the wife and son he leaves behind?  

September 2

Freaks – You’re One Of Us–In this German superhero action comedy, Wendy is an apparently ordinary mother and fast food fry cook.   One day, she accidentally discovers she’s had super-strength and invulnerability all her life.  However, her daily medication had been suppressing those powers.  The mysterious tramp Marek shows Wendy she’s not the only ordinary person with super-powers.  But as she and her fellow superbeings try to figure out what to do with their newly discovered abilities, they find themselves targeted by the conspiracy that might have given them their powers in the first place.  

September 4

Away–This new Netflix drama is executive produced by Jason Katims (“Parenthood,” “Friday Night Lights”).  Astronaut Emma Green (Oscar winner Hilary Swank) leads the first international human mission to Mars.  However, doing so means leaving behind both her husband and her daughter at critical moments in their lives.  But Green’s not the only crew member who’s left their loved ones behind to reach for the stars.  Swank’s post-Oscar track record on choosing projects hasn’t been the greatest in the world, so this series could be either good or a turkey.  

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things–One of September’s must-sees is the new film written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (“Anomalisa,” “Being John Malkovich”).  In this adaptation of Ian Reid’s novel, a Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) accompanies boyfriend (of seven weeks) Jake (Jesse Plemons) on a trip to deep farm country to have dinner with Jake’s parents.  Yet she can’t shake the feeling their relationship is about to end.   Is the growing rift between them real or something she’s projecting?  Prepare to be thoroughly confused and weirded out.

The Lost Okoroshi–Lagos high-rise security guard (and frequent layabout) Raymond has been plagued by weird nightmares.  Masked dancing men constantly pursue him up to the moment he wakes up.  Raymond’s respected elder Okonkwo tells him these dreams are messages from his ancestors.  Then Raymond wakes up one morning wearing a raffia cloak and an Okoroshi mask, yet finds himself unable to speak.  It’s the start of Raymond’s spiritual journey, where Nigerian traditions will clash with modern Nigerian societal ills.  Along the way, the pseudo-Okoroshi will encounter a hustling street kid, an academic, and a secret society of Igbo traditionalists.

September 7

Midnight Special–Check out director Jeff Nichols’ incredibly offbeat science fiction drama.  Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) are the objects of a nationwide manhunt.  Both men are trying to get the specially talented boy Alton to a certain place by a certain time.  But relentlessly pursuing the fugitives are the federal government and a cult that worships Alton.  The boy displays unusual powers, such as publicly reciting numeric sequences related to classified government information.  Will Roy’s love for his son Alton help the boy find his true destiny?

September 9

La Linea: Shadow Of Narco–This docuseries takes viewers to the Spanish city of La Linea.  Located between Morocco and Gibraltar, this southern Spanish city happens to be the major gateway for illegal drugs entering the EU.  The city’s anti-drug forces have their work cut out for them.  With youth unemployment as high as 80%, working in the drug trade is a very lucrative temptation.  For example, the worst paying job (police look-out) pays out $1,200 for a day’s work…and the pay goes up from there.

The Social Dilemma

The Social Dilemma–What if giving the likes of Facebook and Twitter the side eye isn’t paranoia but a sign of rational behavior?  Director Jeff Orlowski (“Chasing Ice”) looks at how such current social problems as rampant misinformation and viral conspiracy theories can be laid at the feet of social media platforms and the algorithms that the platforms rely on.  Thanks to a business model that prizes attention over quality, the platforms’ algorithms meet the goal of keeping platform users engaged by pushing them towards more polarized and extreme thinking.

September 10

The Gift Season 2–This Turkish supernatural archeological thriller is loosely based on the Sengul Boyba novel “The Awakening Of The World.”  Beautiful painter Atiye finds her life and career turned upside down by an ancient mystery.  All her life she’s been drawing a mysterious symbol whose meaning eludes her.  But renowned archeologist Erhan recognizes Atiye’s symbol as one of a group of mysterious symbols found in the ruined temple of Gobeklitepe.  Atiye embarks on a quest to discover the connection between her mysterious symbol and the truth about her past…which might involve reincarnation.  Incidentally, “atiye” is Turkish for “gift.”

Julie And The Phantoms Season 1–Fan of “High School Musical?”  Then check out this new series from director Kenny Ortega.  The tragic death of her mother has dampened high school singer Julie’s love for music.  What starts to snap Julie out of her funk is her accidental discovery of a boy band trio in her mother’s old recording studio.  The young musicians manage to convince Julie to be their singer instead of seeing her running off screaming.  That’s because they died 25 years ago and have returned because of some unfinished business in life. 

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.

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