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All the Best Stuff Hitting Netflix in November

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Razane Jammal from “Paranormal”

Netflix is starting to beat the holiday rush by rolling out the first bunch of Christmas romance movies. But over here, the interesting stuff being shown in the first part of Netflix’s November range from a TV series classic, to a heist caper that launched a franchise, to some classics of American independent film.  

For those who feel like trying something new, there’s Egyptian horror, Belgian crime drama, and an animated rendition of World War II.  But the film that instantly stands out is a Spanish historical drama about a leftist fighter forced to become a “mole” with its resulting psychological costs.

November 1

Boyz n the Hood

Boyz N The Hood–John Singleton’s independent debut feature deservedly became an American cinema milestone.  Intelligent teen Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) has been sent to live with his father (Laurence Fishburne) in Los Angeles’ crime-ridden Crenshaw neighborhood.  His best friends are half-brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut), who dreams of being a pro football player, and Doughboy (Ice Cube), who seems destined to embrace the gang lifestyle.   Life in Crenshaw feels dominated by poverty, gentrification, police intimidation, and drive-by shootings (among other hazards).  Can any of these three friends survive long enough to even reach adulthood?  Bolstered by an incredible rap soundtrack and fashions that soon went mainstream, this is a can’t miss experience.  

A Clockwork Orange–Stanley Kubrick controversially adapted Anthony Burgess’ novel of the same name for a criticism of the human capacity for violence.  The film’s been referenced in pop culture over the decades.  But does the work still pack a visceral or even relevant punch?  Viewers can judge for themselves.  Alex De Large (an unforgettable Malcolm Mc Dowell) is a droog, a street thug in a dystopian future Britain.  To him, committing violence is as natural as breathing.  When the government catches hold of Alex, it decides to make him a guinea pig for the controversial Ludovico Technique.  Will the technique succeed in causing Alex to utterly reject being a violent person?  And is such success a good thing? 

Dawson’s Creek Seasons 1-6–Ready to bingewatch the WB teen drama that launched quite a few Hollywood careers?   In the small coastal town of Capeside, Massachusetts, young film geek Dawson (James Van Der Beek) dreams of being the next Spielberg.  Dawson navigates the ups and downs of high school and even college with his two best friends: the tomboyish Joey (Katie Holmes), whom Dawson loves, and Pacey (Joshua Jackson), who will also develop feelings for Joey.  Into the trio’s lives comes New York City transplant Jen (MIchelle Williams), who brings her own personal baggage.  Holmes and Williams went on to stardom.   Kevin Williamson (the “Scream” movie franchise) created the show.  Greg Berlanti, the guiding light behind the WB’s DC Comics Universe shows, also wrote for the series.  However, thanks to rights issues, viewers streaming the show will not hear Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want To Wait” over the opening titles. : (

Dawson’s Creek

The Impossible–Director J.A. Bayona (“A Monster Calls”) re-tells the true story of how Maria Belon (Naomi Watts) and her family survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 230,000 people.  The real Belon feels the film is a mostly accurate dramatization of what happened to her and her loved ones.  Keep in mind when you see Watts’ Golden Globe-nominated performance that the actress had to deal with her real-life fear of large bodies of water.  Future Spider-Man Tom Holland plays Maria’s teenage son Lucas.  

Leah Remini: Scientology And The Aftermath Seasons 1-3–Actress Leah Remini (“The King Of Queens”) once belonged to the Church of Scientology and served as a Scientology booster.  But when she left the church in 2013, she dedicated herself to discrediting this cult-like outfit.  This series uses the tales of former Scientologists to recount how church officials turned a blind eye to physical abuse and worse within the “religion”…even when allegedly committed by Scientology leader David Miscavige.  This A&E-originated series won two Emmys over its three seasons.     

Ocean’s Eleven–Presumably Netflix is talking about the 2001 version directed by Steven Soderbergh, not the 1960 Rat Pack original.  Fresh out of prison, thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) hatches a plan to rob three particular casinos of $150 million during a boxing match.  He also hopes to win back his ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts).  Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) just happens to both own all three targeted casinos and is dating Tess.  To pull off the audacious robbery, Ocean puts together a team of ten different specialists.  But will the success of the job also mean Danny loses Tess forever?   

Piercing–Nicolas Pesce (The Eyes Of My Mother) goes giallo via adapting a story by Ryu Murakami.  New father Reed (Christopher Abbott) has gone off on what his wife thinks is a business trip.  In reality, he’s planning to murder an escort in his hotel room.  However, when different escort Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) shows up instead, definitely nothing goes according to Reed’s plans.  The horror movie “Audition” was adapted from a Murakami novel, which might clue you in on this film’s sensibility.

Platoon

Platoon–Oliver Stone’s semi-autobiographical war film drew heavily from his own experiences fighting in Vietnam.  In 1967, middle-class college kid Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) soon regrets his decision to fight in Vietnam out of patriotism.  Among the long grueling marches, lack of sleep, constant insect bites, and continual fear, he’s lucky to barely survive.  Besides the sudden Viet Cong attacks, the clash between the merciless Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the more moral Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) increases tensions within the platoon.  Will Taylor finally emerge from the jungle with his soul intact?     

School Daze–Spike Lee’s ensemble musical comedy offers a portrait of 1980s social and political tensions at a historically black college or university (HBCU).   At Mission College, tensions can be found in abundance in the HBCU’s student body.  Some students just want to pledge to fraternities, other students want to fight for divestment from South Africa.  Light-skinned black folks clash with dark-skinned black folks over colorism concerns.  Men fight with women.  Who among these students will know when it’s time to Wake Up?  An amazing cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, Ossie Davis, Kasi Lemmons, and Lee himself.  

Snowden–Oliver Stone’s thriller tells the story of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) via the Hong Kong interview with Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) for what would eventually become the film “Citizenfour.”  Stone’s tale alternates among three different stories: Snowden discovering the depths and intrusiveness of U.S. government surveillance, his romance with liberal photographer Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), and how what Snowden knew was released to the general public.

November 2

Prospect–This low-budget science fiction tale brings a touch of working class grit to the genre.  Cee (Sophie Thatcher) has come with her father Damon (Jay Duplass) to an alien planet to hunt for the highly sought after substance known as aurelac.  But Cee soon finds herself and the very suspicious Ezra (Pedro Pascal) trying to survive together in an environment where they’re very much not alone.  Will they reach the fabled mine known as the Queen’s Lair or will they kill each other first?  

November 4

Love And Anarchy–Nope, this isn’t the famed Lina Wertmuller historical comedy of the same name about a prostitute involved in a plot to assassinate Mussolini.  It’s a Swedish comedy-drama co-written and directed by Lisa Langseth, who discovered Alicia Vikander.  Career-driven consultant and mother of two Sofie (Ida Engvoll, “A Man Called Ove”) has a new assignment.  She’s to modernize an old publishing house. That job means working with young IT tech Max.  Work starts turning to flirtation as Sofie and Max dare each other to do things that challenge societal norms.  But what happens when the challenges get bigger and their consequences start getting more real?

November 5

A New York Christmas Wedding–Director/writer/actor Otoja Abit’s debut feature film takes the Hallmark Christmas special in a direction that will cheese off social conservatives.  Jennifer Ortiz (Nia Fairweather) and David Wilks (Abit) are planning for a Christmas Eve wedding.  However, an appearance by the Angel of Death puts a crimp in the bride-to-be’s plans.  The Angel shows Jennifer visions of the life she could have led if she hadn’t denied her true feelings for her childhood friend Gabrielle.  Guess what choice Jennifer must make?   

Carmel: Who Killed Maria Marta?

Carmel: Who Killed Maria Marta?–Want to get your true crime fix this November?  Then check out this documentary series.  In 2002, Argentine socialite Maria Marta Garcia Belsunce died from what presumably was a fatal fall in the bathtub.  But when an autopsy was done, it revealed the socialite had been shot in the head five times before being dumped in the bathtub.  Husband Carlos Carrascosa was treated as the prime suspect.  Yet the murder occurred in a luxury gated community.  And Carrascosa was allegedly away at a soccer match at the time of the killing.  To date, the murder remains unsolved.

Paranormal–Netflix’s first original Egyptian series is a horror/science fiction tale based on the novels of Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.  In the 1960s, Dr. Refaat Ismail has developed a reputation as a skeptic and an expert hematologist.  He’s convinced there’s no such thing as the supernatural.  However, the occurrence of paranormal events involving both him and ex-colleague Maggie McKillop, a Scottish scientist, may force him to re-evaluate that attitude.    

November 6

Citation–This Nigerian drama looks at the problem of violence against women on a college campus.  Bright postgraduate student Moremi decides to complain about popular professor Lucien N’Dyare when his constant mistreatment of her culminates in a rape attempt.  But when she brings her complaint to the school senate, she finds the academic establishment soon closing ranks behind the accused teacher. 

The Endless Trench

The Endless Trench–This award-winning Spanish historical drama is a don’t miss film that might otherwise slip under the radar.  In the wake of the Spanish Civil War’s end, Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s fascist Nationalists emerge as the victors.  The Nationalists start carrying out an extermination campaign against the leftist Republicans.  Higinio Blanco, one such fugitive Republican, is forced to hide in his home after his escape plan fails.  Wife Rosa initially conceals her husband in a hole beneath their living room.  However, as the years of the Franco dictatorship roll on, strains slowly develop in their marriage from the stress of Higinio’s becoming a “mole” from continued confinement.       

November 9

Undercover: Season 2–In this Dutch crime series, Bob and Kim are undercover cops.  The new season takes place less than a year after the duo brought down drug kingpin Ferry.  Kim has now moved over to Human Rights, and she’s investigating an illegal arms trade in Syria.  The trail leads to the Belgian country and western spread known as the El Dorado Ranch.  Bob gets called in to go undercover and ingratiate himself with the arms-dealing Berger brothers.  Meanwhile, imprisonment has not stopped Ferry from trying to discover the identities of the undercover cops who arrested him.

November 11

Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun–This six-part comedy series features sketches from award-winning Australian absurdist comedy troupe Aunty Donna.  Making guest appearances on the series are Ed Helms (“The Office”) and Weird Al Yankovic.

Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun

The Liberator–This animated adaptation of Alex Kershaw’s book tells the true story of Captain Felix Sparks’ service during World War II.  Leading the racially integrated battalion known as the Thunderbirds through the battlefields of Europe, Sparks takes his men from their landing in Sicily all the way to the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp.  The Thunderbirds will face many wartime horrors, but it’s what they see at Dachau that will truly test their humanity.  By the end, Sparks and his unit will become one of World War II’s most decorated American combat units.

A Queen Is Born–In Netflix’s first Brazilian reality show, hosts Alexia Twister and Gloria Groove help aspiring drag queens and kings find their inner diva.  Drawing on their own experience and those of some charismatic guest specialists, this show will joyously celebrate drag art.

What We Wanted–This Austrian indie drama focuses on young couple Alice and Niklas.  All they ever wanted was the happiness of having and raising a child.  But several failed IVF attempts have left them frustrated.  To clear their minds, the couple go on a vacation to Sardinia.  There, they meet an Austrian family who have everything Alice and Niklas aspire for in their own lives.  But the child-hungry couple will soon learn that the Austrian family isn’t necessarily a happier one.

November 12

Fruitvale Station–Ryan Coogler’s acclaimed directorial debut dramatizes the last day of Oscar Grant’s (Michael B. Jordan) life.  Using public records, news stories, and the help of Grant’s family, Coogler creates a portrait of the young man that aims to restore his humanity in the public eye.  On this particular day, Grant’s forced to take stock of his future prospects while also preparing to celebrate his mother’s birthday.  How much of Grant’s promise would be cut off by a fateful New Year’s Eve BART ride?

Graceful Friends–This Korean drama series centers on a group of friends who have known each other for 20 years.  Now in their 40s, they live peaceful lives in fields ranging from insurance to urology to adult films.  But when one of their number is murdered, a dark secret is revealed.  Around the same time, former college crush Hae-sook has reentered the friends’ lives as a restaurant owner.   But what is her mysterious agenda?

Ludo

Ludo–Netflix celebrates Diwali by bringing this hotly anticipated Bollywood comedy featuring four seemingly independent stories involving a gangster, a kidnapper, three different couples, a re-emerging sex tape and a jinxed suitcase filled with money.  Yet thanks to the butterfly effect, coincidence, and unexpected circumstances, these different stories turn out to be interconnected parts of a far larger story.   

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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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