Netflix Offerings to Keep You Sane During Shelter-in-Place
Netflix helps make the last few weeks of this general trash fire of a year more bearable with some highly anticipated titles. Shonda Rhimes’ first series for Netflix offers her spin on Regency England period romance…which means something far different than wall-to-wall white people. Ryan Murphy brings on the star power with another recent Broadway musical adaptation, but some viewers may have problems with James Corden’s gayface turn. Famed playwright August Wilson’s century play cycle provides the bases for two Netflix offerings. One of these films is a play adaptation featuring the late Chadwick Boseman’s final film performance.
These next few weeks will also see a certain teenage witch begin her last season of adventures; more looks at the creation of iconic songs; and even skilled cooks turning bland leftovers into exciting new dishes. Guilty pleasure of the month honors, though, belong to a tale of high school cheerleading turning into blackmail, emotional manipulation, and possibly even murder. So break out the spiked eggnog and try some of these offerings!
Canvas–In this animated short film, grief from a devastating loss has robbed a grandfather of his desire to paint. Years later, the old man tries taking up the paintbrush again. But he will need help to regain his creative spark.
Giving Voice–This year’s winner of the Festival Favorite Award at the Sundance Film Festival makes its streaming debut. The high stakes August Wilson Monologue Competition gives its public school student contestants a chance to use monologues from August Wilson’s century play cycle to explore themselves and the world around them. For six students seeking a career in the performing arts, winning this intense competition means a chance to perform on Broadway. The documentary also features the new John Legend song “Never Break.”
The Mess You Leave Behind–Carlos Montero directs this series adaptation of his Primavera Literature Award-winning novel. Raquel has taken a substitute teacher job at a high school located in a small town in the Galician interior. Previous teacher Elvira had committed suicide. But as Raquel learns more about her predecessor, it starts becoming clear that Elvira’s suicide may have been sparked by harassment from her students.
The Prom–Ryan Murphy directs this star-studded adaptation of Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, and Matthew Sklar’s Tony-nominated musical. The careers of Broadway star Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) truly get flushed down the toilet after their disastrous musical closes on Opening Night. In a bid to revive their reputations, the two faded actors and a couple of friends decide to adopt a high-profile charity cause. They’re going to help high-school senior Emma Nolan fight discrimination preventing her from bringing her girlfriend Alyssa to the senior prom. Reviews have said Streep is great but Corden comes off as a bad gayface performer, so YMMV.
Hilda: Season 2–Hilda is an adventurous child with little fear of the unknown. As Season 2 begins, Hilda’s mother Johanna decides to keep her daughter from getting into more otherworldly mischief by putting her on a very short leash. But it isn’t long before the girl and her friends have encounters with witches, weird beasts, and pirate ghosts.
The Grizzlies–In the small Arctic town of Kugluktuk, a suicide crisis has hit a town already ravaged by deprivation and drug abuse. To give the school’s Inuit kids something to do and something to look forward to, new teacher Russ Sheppard decides to organize a lacrosse team. The kids’ initial skepticism soon gives way to trust and even pride. This film, based on a true story, was the product of incredible collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous talent both in front of and behind the camera.
Song Exploder Volume 2–The original “Song Exploder” was a podcast where artists were interviewed about the genesis of one of their key songs. Netflix’s adaptation of the podcast returns with a new set of interviewees. Dua Lipa, The Killers, and Nine Inch Nails will be featured this time around. Fans of Nine Inch Nails will want to tune in to see Trent Reznor talk about “Hurt.”
Nocturnal Animals–Successful art gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams) is utterly unhappy with her perfect life. Out of the blue, she receives a manuscript from first husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hadn’t heard from in 20 years. Edward’s novel concerns a family vacation gone terribly awry thanks to a feral gang. As Susan continues to read Edward’s manuscript, she slowly realizes it’s his revenge on her for walking out on their marriage and for her belittling of his talent. But what is Edward’s end game? .
The Ripper–From 1975 to 1980, the Yorkshire Ripper terrorized the streets of northern England. 13 women would be murdered by the serial killer before he was finally caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. This documentary series recounts the crimes, their effects on the victims’ relatives, and the sometimes hopeless manhunt for the killer.
Vir Das: Outside In – The Lockdown Special–When Indian comedian Vir Das was forced to go into lockdown, he did what creative people do when stuck at home. The comedian turned his experiences in involuntary confinement at his Mumbai residence into a one-off virtual comedy special. But when demand mounted worldwide for further shows, Das obliged and eventually produced thirty such shows. This special might be called a showreel of Das’ best bits from his virtual shows.
Braven–Joe Braven (Jason Momoa) may run a rural Newfoundland logging company. But he’s unaware that Weston, one of his delivery-truck drivers, moonlights as a drug courier. A roadside accident forces Weston to hide the heroin he’s transporting at Braven’s isolated hunting cabin. But the driver/courier’s plan to retrieve the stash (accompanied by drug lord Kassen and some thugs) gets compromised because Braven is already in the cabin spending quality time with his mentally unstable father Linden. The logging company owner soon finds himself having to improvise weapons to fight off Kassen’s drug gang.
Home For Christmas Season 2–Does your holiday entertainment need something that mixes romantic dramedy and soap opera twists? Try this Norwegian import. Johane has finally had it with people commenting on her being single at 30 and pressuring her to have a perfect family Christmas. She sets out to find a partner to bring home for the family get-together. Season 1 ended with a cliffhanger. But is ending up with someone what Johane ultimately needs?
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom–The much-missed Chadwick Boseman made his final film performance in this adaptation of August Wilson’s play of the same name. Boseman plays Levee, an ambitious trumpeter in a 1920s blues band headlined by the imperious and extravagant Queen of the Blues Ma Rainey (Viola Davis). The band’s about to record a new album in a Chicago studio. Rainey’s manager tries to prevent her from going full diva before the recording is done. Levee confidently believes his secret dealings with their record label owner will lead to his becoming a star in his own right. But is the trumpeter’s confidence really warranted?
Sweet Home–This live action adaptation of Yongchan Hwang’s webtoon thriller takes place at an apartment complex known as Green Home. High school student Cha Hyun Soo has moved here after losing his family. But when people around Cha start turning into monsters reflective of their internal desires, the high school student may well be the best hope for uninfected peoples’ survival.
Shaun The Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas–For viewers who don’t live in the UK or subscribe to Amazon Prime, they’ll finally get a chance to see this short film made after the first Shaun the Sheep movie. Thanks to Shaun hitching a ride to the county fair, Mossy Bottom Farm acquires three new residents: a trio of llamas. But the llamas turn out to be more malicious than Shaun anticipated.
The Midnight Sky–George Clooney directs and stars in this science fiction drama set 29 years into Earth’s future. Thanks to unchecked global warming, Earth is now uninhabitable. Fortunately, scientist Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney) has found a way to help climate survivors emigrate to a new home in space. Lofthouse has stayed behind at an Arctic base to make sure the migration goes smoothly. But a couple of crises soon rear their heads. There’s a small child stowaway he has to deal with. And the ailing scientist must warn the astronauts on a particular approaching spacecraft not to return to Earth.
Your Name Engraved Herein–Director Patrick Liu drew from his own memories to create this high school romance, which won some Golden Horse awards. 1980s Taiwan is slowly coming out of martial law. At an all-male boarding school, two students played by Jing-Hua Tseng and Edward Chen are both good friends and lovers. But when the school starts admitting females, one particular new student puts the friends/lovers’ relationship to the test.
Bridgerton–Showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ first Netflix series does a race-blind adaptation of Julia Quinn’s beloved romance novel series. It follows the adventures of the eight well-off Bridgerton children as they seek love in early 1800s England. The problem is, the children tend to be attracted to people who are “complex” in various ways.
DNA–Director-actor Maiwenn stars in this tale of the constantly bickering French-Algerian Fellah clan. While the members of the family argue about anything under the sun, the only thing everyone can agree on is their mutual love for frail family patriarch Emir. Granddaughter and single mother Neige (Maiwenn) wants to reconnect with her Algerian roots, but she receives pushback from other members of the Fellah clan. However, the turmoil caused by Emir’s sudden demise gives Neige the final push she needs to go back to Algeria.
Sakho & Mangane Season 1–Welcome to the mean streets of Dakar, Senegal. Helping tamp down crime here are detective partners Sakho and Mangane. Old school Commander Sakho usually displays a cool & calm demeanor while the younger Lieutenant Mangane is eager to prove himself. If you think the setup sounds familiar, that’s because the city of Dakar itself hasn’t been factored into the character mix. Despite the city’s embrace of the present day, the country’s ancient cultural roots (including the supernatural) and colonial past are far from dead and forgotten.
Cops And Robbers–When poet Timothy Ware-Hill heard about the police murder of Ahmaud Arbery, he wrote the titular poem in response. Now Ware-Hill’s poem about racial profiling and police brutality comes to animated life thanks to director Arnon Manor, 30 artists from around the world, and Ware-Hill’s performance of his work. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith helped bring this short to Netflix streaming.
Rango–Gore Verbinski (“Pirates Of The Caribbean”) directs this smart animated parody of Westerns with nods to other films such as “Apocalypse Now” and “Star Wars.” Wandering lizard Rango (voice of Johnny Depp, so YMMV) becomes the new sheriff of Dirt after accidentally killing the eagle eating Dirt’s citizens. He has his hands full dealing with Rattlesnake Jake’s (voice of Bill Nighy) gang and solving the town’s problem of steadily diminishing water supplies.
Dare Me Season 1–This adaptation of Megan Abbott’s novel is about cheerleading in the same way that “Riverdale” is about a missing persons case. It starts off with cheerleaders and best friends Addy and Beth finding their friendship slowly unraveling with the arrival of new coach Collette French. When the two girls catch their married coach cheating on her husband with an ex-lover, the fallout from that incident sets off an increasingly insane series of events. Cover-ups, ominously loose teeth, emotional manipulation, blackmail, and more lead to a “holy s**t” level ending. Will streaming popularity result in the series’ revival?
Best Leftovers Ever!–Yes, this is yet another reality show cooking competition. But its useful premise might hold off the eye-rolling. Three skilled cooks are challenged to turn apparently useless leftovers into delicious food. For example, who knew you could turn a leftover tamale into gnocchi or get good pasta out of day-old fries? Maybe a Broke-Ass reader or two might get a cooking idea from this show.
Equinox–Already missing the German series “Dark?” Then try this new Danish show based on the podcast “Equinox 1985.” In 1999, 9-year-old Astrid was traumatized by the mysterious disappearance of her sister and her entire graduating class. The nightmares and visions from that incident plagued Astrid for years. In 2020, Astrid’s now a late-night radio show host who’s put the nightmares behind her. But then she gets a call from one of the survivors of the 1999 disappearance. He speaks of alternate dimensions and knowing why Astrid’s sister vanished. That call will spur Astrid to find out what really happened to her sister and the others.
Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina: Part 4–The final season of this reimagining of the Archie Comics character begins with following the lives of two simultaneously existing Sabrinas: one who rules Hell and one who lives in Greendale. However, the Eldritch Terrors are descending on the town. If Greendale’s witches and the Fright Club can’t stop them, the Terror known as The Void will literally bring about the end of everything.