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Even More of the Best Stuff Netflix on Netflix In November

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Ready for more food and Christmas programming on Netflix to honor the season?  The programming treats in the second part of November include a Dolly Parton musical featuring over a dozen original Parton songs, a Shondaland documentary about Debbie Allen’s unique take on “The Nutcracker,” and a look at the cuisine of a heavily Muslim province of China. Or you could always see a tale of a family Christmas gathering grown very awkward for a guy who discovers his ex-girlfriend’s now dating his brother.

Viewers not filled with “goodwill towards all” vibes won’t be left wanting either. Sophia Loren gives what quite a few critics are calling an Oscar-worthy performance in a remake of “Madame Rosa.” Or take a look at the Ferguson uprising from the viewpoint of the outraged Black residents. The most extreme option, though, might well be seeing Danny Trejo’s Machete hacking and shooting bad guys.  

November 13

The Life Ahead

The Life Ahead–The Romain Gary novel which inspired 1977 Oscar winner “Madame Rosa” provides director Edoardo Ponti an opportunity to do his own take on the story.   Instead of 1970s France, the story’s now set in present-day inner-city Italy.  Playing the lead role is Ponti’s  mother, screen legend Sophia Loren.  The basic story, though, hasn’t been changed for the remake.  12-year-old Senagalese refugee Momo first meets Madame Rosa (Loren) while making a failed attempt to rob her.  The former prostitute and Holocaust survivor eventually takes in this African orphan from a broken displaced family.  The generational and cultural differences between these two slowly fall away as they discover their personal similarities.  

The Minions Of Midas–This Spanish-language limited series is based on the Jack London story of the same name.  One day in contemporary Madrid, wealthy and successful high finance bigwig Victor Genoves receives a hand-delivered letter sealed in wax.  The letter has a simple message: pay us 50 million Euros or else.  If the ransom isn’t paid, The Minions of Midas (aka the letter’s senders) will kill one random innocent person a day until Genoves coughs up the money.   

November 15

V For Vendetta–A fascist government rules a dystopian Britain in an alternate world 2020.  Under the Big Brother-like Sutler (John Hurt), the police and the media ensure the country is secure but not free.  Then on the eve of Guy Fawkes Day, resistance arrives in the form of the mysterious Guy Fawkes mask-wearing V (Hugo Weaving).  He saves TV reporter Evey (Natalie Portman) from being raped by cops before going on to blow up London’s Old Bailey.  Over the course of the next year, V will make preparations for a crushing blow against Sutler’s government.  Along the way, V’s influence will slowly help Evey reject the cultural conditioning Sutler’s regime has imposed on people like her.  Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

November 16

Loving–In 1958, the state of Virginia (like far too many American states at the time) treated interracial marriage as a criminal act.  Mildred (Ruth Negga, “Preacher”) and Richard (Joel Edgerton) Loving didn’t let that fact stop them from getting married.  But their hopes for a quiet life where they won’t bother anyone get dashed.  Virginia state authorities arrest the couple and eventually exile them from the state for 25 years.  When Mildred sends a letter to Robert F. Kennedy seeking help, the wheels are set in motion for a lawsuit that will eventually lead to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

Whose Streets?

Whose Streets?—Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’ street-level documentary captures the 2014 Ferguson uprising  from the point of view of the activists and the ordinary citizens who became activists.  The police shooting death of Michael Brown (for allegedly stealing a box of cigars) sparks long-simmering community resentments into activism.  But tensions between the Black community and the white cops truly explode after the cops employ military-style tactics to crush the protests.  

November 17

We Are The Champions–Rainn Wilson narrates this sports documentary series with a difference.  It’s a look at six unusual sports competitions including chili eating, fantasy hair styling, and  frog jumping.  The genial weirdness of the competitions wind up mattering less than the competitors’ displays of heart and enthusiasm to do their best. 

November 18

Bitter Daisies Season 2–Civil Guard Lt. Rosa Vargas originally came to the small Northern Spanish town of Murias to investigate a young woman’s disappearance.  But she eventually found this “small sleepy town where nothing happens” had a very dark underbelly.  And that the case was somehow tied to a personal loss of her own.  Now in the new season, the series turns to the investigation of a club linked to a sex-trafficking ring.

November 20

Flavorful Origins: Gansu Cuisine–Are you sure you truly know all the varieties of Chinese food culture?  This culinary documentary series begs to differ.  Each season, creator Chen Xiaoqing travels to a different province of China to show the (generally unknown to Westerners) local food traditions.  Unsurprisingly, some of the featured dishes will cause a viewer’s mouth to water.  This season, the series looks at the cuisine of Gansu province.  Gansu, located in central China, is a province whose territory includes both deserts and lush mountains at its opposite ends.  A significant Muslim minority resides here, and the food they make reflects the breadth of the province’s terrain.

If Anything Happens, I Love You–Director Will Mc Cormack’s (“Toy Story 4” co-writer) animated short was made with an all-female animation team and executive produced by Laura Dern.   The parents of a young daughter killed in a school shooting get a visit from the shadows of themselves and their dead child.

Voices Of Fire

Voices Of Fire–Musician Pharrell Williams executive produces and appears in this reality series set in Hampton Roads, VA.  Not only is this the area Williams hails from, it’s also the home of Williams’ uncle, the musical genius Bishop Ezekiel Williams.  The Bishop’s trying  to build the world’s most inspiring gospel choir.  He thinks he can find his choir members among Hampton Roads’ undiscovered talent of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

November 22

Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square–Debbie Allen (“Fame”) directs and choreographs this new holiday musical starring Dolly Parton.  After her father dies, rich and nasty Regina Fuller returns to her old hometown.  But she’s not there to mourn.  Rather, Fuller plans to ruin the townspeople’s Christmas by evicting everyone and selling the land to a mall developer.  What slowly changes the rich woman’s mind are influences including the townsfolk’s personal stories and an actual angel’s guidance.  Parton provides the 14 original songs heard in the musical.

Machete Kills–For those who feel carving turkeys is a little too tame for Thanksgiving week, why not catch this unapologetic exploitation action-comedy?  100% certified cinema badass Danny Trejo reprises his role as federale Machete Cortez.  U.S. President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen) offers Machete U.S. citizenship if he can kill psychopath Marcos Mendez.  The psychopath has threatened to launch a nuclear missile aimed at the heart of Washington, D.C.  But the mission turns out to be filled with betrayals, unpleasant surprises, a high body count, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.       

Machete Kills

November 25

The Great Pretender Season 2–”Season 2” is a misnomer.  This is actually the concluding batch of episodes created to date for this anime adventure comedy series.  For those who came in late, the series follows the adventures of an international group of con artists who use their scamming abilities to take down wealthy and powerful villains.  “Case 4: Wizards Of The Far East” is the title for these nine new episodes. 

November 26

Mosul–Screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan wrote and directed this action drama about Iraq’s battle against Islamic State (IS) forces.  A young police officer joins Jasem’s Nineveh SWAT team.  It’s his act of repayment for the team’s saving his life during a firefight.  But the Nineveh team’s ongoing mission may make the new recruit regret his action.  This rogue band of police officers are engaged in a guerilla operation to fight the IS forces occupying Mosul.  The Russo Brothers produced this international co-production.    

November 27

The Call–No, this isn’t the Halle Berry movie where she plays a 911 telephone operator.  This thriller hails from South Korea.  A young woman named Seo-Yeon answers a phone call from a woman named Young-Sook.  However, Young-Sook is calling from twenty years in the past.  The two women become friends in spite of the temporal distance.  And then Seo-Yeon learns her new friend is a serial killer…

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker–Shonda Rhimes’ production company produced this behind the scenes documentary about the making of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy’s Christmas ballet “Hot Chocolate Nutcracker.”  Allen’s take on the Christmas classic “The Nutcracker” is set on Christmas Eve at the Johnson family residence.  During the party, young Kara receives a nutcracker filled with hot chocolate.  The Nutcracker’s coming to life marks the start of an amazing world-spanning journey which will take Kara to such fantastic places as the Indian Rainforest/Bollywood, Jazzland, and the Land of the Kimono Dolls. 

Don’t Listen–In this Spanish horror thriller, Daniel and Sara buy an old house to renovate and eventually flip it.  But the couple’s plans drastically change after their 9-year-old son Eric dies shortly after discovering something off about the house.  Daniel soon realizes that the house has trapped his son’s spirit along with the spirits of other unfortunates.  That’s no surprise as It turns out the house was used in the past as a site for black magic rites.  Now it looks as if the old building’s evil influence is growing stronger. 

Over Christmas–In this German mini-series, aspiring musician Bastian (Luke Mockridge) has good reason for lacking the Christmas spirit.  His girlfriend broke up with him and he’s stuck in an emotional rut.  Visiting his family for Christmas, Bastian is about to get a couple of surprises.  Brother Niklas has a new girlfriend: Bastian’s ex-.  And Mom and Dad also have a secret of their own to reveal.

Sugar Rush Christmas Season 2–What’s a holiday celebration without a scrumptious dessert or two?  In this reality show cooking competition, four sets of bakers compete in elimination rounds on Christmas-themed baking challenges.  Regular judges Hunter March, Candace Nelson, and Adriano Zumbo will be joined by such celebrity guest judges as Tiffani Thiessen and Olympic Gold Medalist Meryl Davis.   

November 28

The Uncanny Counter–Ready for a series that mixes demons and noodle cooking?  In this adaptation of a popular webcomic, Counter is the name of a team of demon hunters whose members possess such special abilities as super-strength and the ability to sense evil spirits miles away.  To ordinary humans, the members of Counter are mere noodle restaurant employees.  But can Counter both nail evil spirits and make sure the restaurant stays profitable?

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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.