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All The Great Stuff Hitting Netflix in December

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There’s a documentary about the making of Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Now that it’s December, food and festivities will hopefully be on peoples’ minds. Netflix contributes to the season’s spirit with comfort food-level holiday entertainments. A documentary about the making of Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas might bring out the warm fuzzies. Or a holiday edition of The Great British Baking Show may send visions of delicious baked goods into your dreams. In these quarters, though, Christmas Crossfire offers a great reason for wishing for the realization of good will towards one’s fellow humans. The alternative shown in the film is worrying about getting wasted by irate gang members.

Other Netflix goodies over the next couple of weeks have something for everyone. There are a couple of Steven Spielberg blockbusters. David Fincher’s newest film goes to Golden Age Hollywood to show the link between a cinema classic and William Faulkner’s famous remark about Grecian Urns and old ladies. An unusual theater project shows how to have both hypermasculinity and negotiated consent at the same time. But the wildest offering might be the story of an engineer who enrages the local authorities by making his own artificial island.   

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Alien Worlds–Call this new series a speculative documentary. It discusses existing knowledge about actual Earth-like exo-planets.  Using Earth’s own ecosystem as a baseline, the series offers computer animated speculations on the animals and plants that might live on such  exo-planets.

Chef–Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) loses his job at a high end Los Angeles restaurant after an extended war of words with an influential restaurant critic.  To help him regain his cooking mojo, ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) sets Carl up with a food truck.  The chef turns the food truck into a Cubano sandwich emporium and he sets out on a cross-country trip with his son to rebuild his culinary creativity.  The big question here is what will catch the viewer’s eye more: the appearances of Vergara and Scarlett Johansson….or food porn-level images of fresh-off-the-pig bacon, beef cheeks, and a slab of Texas-style brisket with a blackened crust? 

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial—Imaginative boy Elliott (Henry Thomas) befriends an extraterrestrial dubbed E.T. who’s been accidentally left stranded on Earth.  What happens to them next forms the basis for one of director Steven Spielberg’s most beloved films.  If you aren’t amused by the shot of E.T. hiding among the stuffed toys, your inner kid might be asleep.  (For those who want a more cynical take on this premise, try Alan Moore and Jim Baikie’s wonderful graphic novel “Skizz.”  Here, the titular stranded alien character hangs out with “punks and pipe-fitters.”)  

The Holiday Movies That Made Us–Do your holiday traditions include watching either “Elf” and/or “The Nightmare Before Christmas?”  Then check out this documentary special.  It talks about how these two unconventional Christmas films nearly didn’t get made and how they eventually became holiday staples.

Ink Master Seasons 1 & 2–Love skin art?  This reality show competition pits ten of America’s best tattoo artists against each other for a $100,000 prize and the title of Ink Master.  Each episode’s challenge involves testing such tattooing skills as shading, proportion, and lettering.

Jurassic Park–Another beloved Steven Spielberg film is this blockbuster that popularized raptors for mass audiences.  Writer Michael Crichton’s plot is fairly simple: a weekend visit to an island amusement park populated by genetically engineered dinosaurs goes south after sabotage lets the park’s giant carnivores on the loose.  But the film wound up setting a couple of milestones: being the first film to rake in over $900 million at the box office and showing that films heavy with CGI special effects can be blockbusters.  And if you like the original, Netflix is also showing two of its sequels this month.

Emicida AmarElo

Kung Fu Panda 2–In a mythical Chinese kingdom, Dragon Warrior panda Po (voice of Jack Black) leads a team of animal martial artists known as the Furious Five.  A new danger faces the kingdom in the form of evil peacock Lord Shen (voice of Gary Oldman).  His plan for conquest requires him to amass a huge amount of scrap iron.  Meanwhile, Po tries to learn how Mr. Ping can be his biological father despite being a goose.     

Monster House–Mr. Nebbercracker (voice of Steve Buscemi) is an old man who’s the bane of the neighborhood children.  He lives in the Monster House, a place known to the local kids as a house that literally eats up both unlucky kids and their toys.  However, the local adults pass off the stories of the Monster House as products of their children’s overactive imaginations.  Kids DJ, Chowder, and Jenny try to gather evidence to get the adults to take action.  But are they already too late?   

Natalie Palamides: Nate – A One-Man Show–In broad strokes, Nate (Palamides) wants to tell the story of his life on a theater stage.  However, he needs the consent of various audience members to move the story along.  Nate’s also a parody of the cartoonish standard of hypermasculinity embraced by the MGTOW crowd.  Those guys will probably be offended by Palamides’ show.  Which is a good reason for the rest of us to check it out. 

December 4

Bhaag Beanie Bhaag–This variation on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” setup involves a young woman named Bindiya Akankshi Bhatnagar aka “Beanie.”  While Beanie’s family is happy her fiance has finally asked The Question, the young woman starts feeling claustrophobic.  Her solution is to run away and try her hand at performing stand-up comedy.

Big Mouth Season 4–Nick Kroll’s hit animated series returns with more tales of growing up with the literal monsters that make going through puberty a challenge.  The new season starts at summer camp, where guest star John Oliver plays a camp counselor who wears socks and sandals.  Other changes include the introduction of Tito the Anxiety Mosquito (voice of Maria Bamford) and Missy’s slowly getting comfortable with embracing the Black part of her identity.

Big Mouth

Bombay Rose–The first Indian hand-painted animated film to open Venice Critics Week links stories of impossible loves via a red rose.  The central tale concerns young club dancer Kamala, who must choose between fending for her family and falling for the orphaned Salim.  Other tales focus on love between two women and the entire city’s love for its Bollywood stars.    

Christmas Crossfire–Tired of Christmas movies celebrating love, happy families, and all that sentimental stuff?  Try this dark comedy from Germany.  A man travels with a woman he’s just met to the cold German countryside for some Naughty holiday fun.  However, his plans seriously change after he accidentally ruins a gangland execution.  Now the angry gang members are hunting down both the original intended victim and our hapless hero through the countryside.

The Great British Baking Show: Holidays: Season 3–What Broke-Ass fans of this reality competition will see is actually the already aired (in the UK) 2019 Christmas and New Year’s specials.  American fans of this reality baking competition won’t care as it’s new episodes that are season-appropriate.   But show completists may still grumble about not seeing the series specials (Celebrity Bake Off, anyone) which have not aired outside the UK.

Kings Of Joburg Season 1–Netflix’s newest South African action-drama takes viewers to the crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg.  Here, Simon “Vader” Masire, the eldest of the Masire siblings, smoothly and competently runs the family crime business.   But he’s also a member of the Kings Of Joburg brotherhood and has a dark secret that he prefers to keep hidden.  Mogomotsi “Mo” Masire is an ex-convict who worships his older brother.  Now the ex-con must choose between his family responsibilities and the criminal path that landed him in jail.

Leyla Everlasting–In this dark comedy from Turkey, Adem and Leyla’s long marriage has struck a rut.  A consultation with marriage counselor Nergis has unexpected consequences.   Adem has a torrid affair with the counselor while Nergis wants to marry Adem after he divorces Leyla.  But when Adem’s current wife refuses to agree to a divorce, the husband resorts to arranging a fatal “accident” for his wife.  Unfortunately for Adem and Nergis, Leyla survives that accident…and the later “accidents” Adem tries devising for her. 

Mank–Director David Fincher’s return to feature film-making dives into a bit of Hollywood history.  “Mank” is the nickname for bitter has-been screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman).  The studio wants him to write up a screenplay for new hotshot director Orson Welles.  It isn’t until Mank’s recuperation from a broken leg that he will write the script that left his mark on world cinema history.  Yet an important part of the creative mix that will result in that script may well be his antagonistic relationship with both the Hollywood studio system and newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst.

Selena–The Series

Selena: The Series–This biographical drama series recounts the tragically short life of Tejano superstar singer Selena Quintanilla.   But it’s also the story of the other members of the Quintanilla family.   As they use what resources they have to help Selena’s rise to fame, they struggle to better their lives and find their own places in the world.

December 5

Detention–Why not liven your holiday season with a Taiwanese horror series?  This Netflix co-production with Taiwan’s Public Television Service is based on a popular video game.  It’s set at Greenwood High School in the 1990s.  New transfer student Yunxiang Liu accidentally encounters a ghost when she wanders into the school’s forbidden area.  But the ghost, whose name is Ruixin Fang, turns out to be a guide to the school’s decades-long history of persecuting students and teachers who fought for freedom.  And persecuted people don’t necessarily stay metaphorically dead and buried.

December 7

Manhunt: Deadly Games–The new season of this true-crime drama starts in 1996 Atlanta.  At the city’s Olympic Park, a pipe bomb kills one person and injures 100 others.  At first Park security guard Richard Jewell gets a trial by the media as the prime suspect.  Police attention eventually turns to the real culprit, right-wing radical and anti-abortion terrorist Eric Rudolph.  However, finding Rudolph is hampered by the fugitive’s skill at living off the grid.

December 8

Emicida: AmarElo – It’s All For Yesterday–The 1922 Modern Art Week.  The 1978 founding of the Unified Black Movement.  The November 2019 debut show of Brazilian rapper MC Emicida.  This documentary’s look at the last century of Brazilian black culture shows how these three events are interconnected.  The film uses as a dramatic spine the production of MC Emicida’s 2019 show at Sao Paulo’s Theatro Municipal. 

December 9

Rose Island

Rose Island—This Italian comedy is set during the Swinging Sixties.  Gifted engineer Giorgio Rosa has just lost his job, the love of his life, and the affection of his parents.  Tired of the stuffiness of Italian society, he joins a group of revolutionaries and outcasts to implement an outrageous scheme.  Rosa builds his own island in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Rimini.  The new island, dubbed Rose Island, declares itself an independent micronation.   But the unamused Italian Prime Minister soon brands Rose Island Italy’s Public Enemy Number One.  Based on an outrageous true story.

The Surgeon’s Cut–This Netflix docuseries follows ground-breaking surgeons around the globe employing revolutionary new surgical techniques to handle currently difficult medical challenges.  The fields covered include neurosurgery, fetal medicine, transplant surgery, and cardiology.

December 10

Alice In Borderland–Hara Aso’s popular psychological thriller manga gets a live-action adaptation.  Unemployed Ryohei Alice has become bored with a life dominated by playing video games.  At a festival, he wishes he and his two friends Karube and Segawa could live in a world more exciting than the one they’re currently stuck in.  Unfortunately for them, that wish gets granted.  The three friends find themselves in a parallel world where being good at games is literally the key to a person’s survival.

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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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