All The Cool Stuff Coming To Netflix In December

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Netflix’s offerings in December are not a case of sparse choices. Instead, it’s a question of what viewers will make time for in between bouts of holiday merrymaking. Viewers can go for one of many Christmas romances or family comedies airing this month (For the record, Shaun the Sheep gets my Christmas entertainment attention).

But aside from being reminded of the holiday season, Netflix’s December releases feature awards bait films and returning series. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a toxic male rancher in one high profile film while in another Olivia Colman plays a woman confronting her screwups as a young mother. There’s the return of an animated death-metal singing fox and a medieval monster hunter. Viewers can even liven the end of the year with a star-studded dark comedy about people’s indifference to the prospective end of the world.

Whether your seasonal tipple taste runs to spiked eggnog or something stronger, sit back with whatever Netflix offering catches your eye and see if binge-watching and binge tippling will mix well.

December 1

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Looper–In the future of Rian Johnson’s science fiction crime drama, time travel has been criminalized.  Unfortunate victims get sent on a one-way ticket to the past, where a hired killer known as a looper waits to off them.  Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper, whose loyalty and proficiency at his job allows him access to all the drugs and women he wants.  Then Joe’s assigned to kill his older future self (Bruce Willis).  What happens when the older man tries to enlist his younger self’s help to kill a child who will grow up to become the criminal version of the Antichrist?

The Power Of The Dog

The Power Of The Dog–Director Jane Campion’s very well-received adaptation of Thomas Savage’s novel puts toxic masculinity through a well-deserved wringer.  In 1925 Montana, teenaged Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) helps his widowed mother Rose (Kirsten Dunst) run a restaurant.  When ranch owners Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George have a celebratory dinner at Rose’s restaurant, George is smitten by Rose and soon marries her.  However, Phil is abusive towards his new relatives.  He despises Peter for his fey ways and continually taunts Rose.  But is there a secret motive behind Phil’s abusive behavior? 

December 2

The Alpinist–Marc-Andre Leclerc, the titular subject of this documentary, is a record-setting solo mountain climber.  He audaciously climbs mountains without the benefit of a partner, ropes, or any safety device whatsoever.  Footage of his climbs are admittedly breath-taking and terrifying.  But can Leclerc’s pursuit of flow while climbing beat the odds of his dying while engaging in his very risky sport?

The Whole Truth–Teen siblings Pim and Putt are distraught when their mother gets into a car accident and is hospitalized.  An old couple who say they’re the siblings’ grandparents offer them a place to stay.  However, Pim and Putt’s mother never mentioned anything about the kids having grandparents.  More worryingly, a  mystical hole offers glimpses of a terrifying secret hidden in the walls of the grandparents’ home.  Director Wisit Sasanatieng is probably best known to American art film audiences for his unique Thai Western “Tears Of The Black Tiger.”  If this new film is as good as that earlier film, this supernatural tale might be called Sleeper Pick of the Month. 

December 3

Love And Fury–This documentary from director Sterlin Harjo (“Reservation Dogs”) follows a group of Native American artists over the course of a year.  It’s a showcase of the incredible variety and talent of Native American artists.  But the film also discusses the weightier issues of Native American identity and creating art without seeking others’ permission.  

Asakusa Kid

Shaun The Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas–It’s a new holiday special starring Aardman Animations’ famed mischief-making sheep.  The members of the Flock look forward to getting presents from Santa.  However, the stockings they currently have are a little too small for the job.  Shaun’s answer is to sneak into the farmhouse and “liberate” a few bigger stockings from the Farmer.  But an unexpected complication arises when Timmy the sheep disappears and faces the possibility of accidentally becoming someone’s present.

December 6

Voir Season 1–Filmmakers David Fincher and David Prior executive produced this series of visual essays celebrating the love of cinema.  The essayists include film critic Walter Chaw, blogger Sasha Stone, and writer and editor Tony Zhou.  They will discuss everything from insights on character and craft to the qualities of truly legendary films to even the evolution of film and its viewership.

December 9

Asakusa Kid–In 1965, future TV star and film director Takeshi Kitano drops out of university.  He winds up joining the Asakusa French Za performance theater and becomes an apprentice to the legendary comedian Senzaburo Fukami.  The big lesson Fukami imparts to his apprentices is to make their comedian’s attitude part of their everyday life.  It may be a time when home televisions’ growing popularity threatens the viability of live comedy.  But young Kitano’s still determined to learn from Fukami and other performers to hone his craft for success.  This film adapts Kitano’s memoir of the same name.

December 10

Aranyak Season 1–In this Indian web series, a foreign teenage tourist disappears from the titular Himalayan town.  Harried local cop Katsuri reluctantly joins forces with city-bred cop Angad to solve the case.  But the course of the investigation gets snarled in political ploys, the proverbial buried skeletons, and a mythic bloodthirsty serial killing forest entity that might be real.

Saturday Morning All Star Hits!

Saturday Morning All Star Hits!–Kyle Mooney (“Saturday Night Live”) and Ben Jones created this combined animation and live-action tribute to the TV cartoons once broadcast on Saturday mornings.  These shows, with their often bizarre premises, wound up influencing in various ways the generation of kids that watched them.  Mooney will play the show’s twin hosts Skip and Treybor.

December 11

Fast Color–In this low-key near-future science fiction film, water has become so scarce that access to water equals power.  Recovering drug addict Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) wanders through an American West that has become a harsh wasteland.  She’s hoping to get back to the family home where her mother Bo lives with Ruth’s abandoned daughter Lila.  The former addict’s mending fences with her family is complicated by her seizures, which set off earthquakes.  The government agents who pursue Ruth know about that ability…but not about the reality that Bo and Lila also possess special powers of their own.

The Hungry And The Hairy–Artist Rain and comedian Ro Hong-chul share a love of motorcycle riding.  The duo decide to use their vehicles to make a scenic trip to various tourist sites and restaurants.  However, because Rain has a strict one-meal-a-day regimen, he picks out each item on the menu.

December 13

Bonus Family Season 4–This Swedish dramedy concerns the complications and tensions arising within a household consisting of a married couple, their exes, and their children.  Will the exes start to move on with their lives?  Will the children have better relations with each other?  Time will tell.

December 15

The Hand Of God–Director Paolo Sorrentino returns with an autobiographical tale.  In 1980s Naples, teen Fabietto Schisa (the Sorrentino character) is excited to learn that Barcelona soccer star Diego Maradona will be playing in Naples.  However, any excitement young Schisa derives from this news soon gets wiped out by a horrible event.  Could an encounter with fiery director Antonio Capuano give the teen the life-changing experience he needs to bounce back?

The Hand Of God

December 16

Aggretsuko Season 4–It’s the return of everyone’s favorite heavy-metal singing animated fox!  In the new season, Retsuko’s decision to continue pursuing her rock music career means she can expect further career bumps along the way.  And will Haida’s promise of protection have something more than good intentions behind it?

Puff: Wonders Of The Reef–Rose Byrne narrates this cute documentary which follows the adventures of a baby pufferfish traveling along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in search of a new home.  Along the way, the tiny creature will encounter incredible microscopic wonders of the sea.

December 17

The Witcher Season 2–It’s the return of the hit series adaptation of the popular video game.  Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) hopes that his childhood home of Kaer Morhen will provide the refuge needed for Princess Cirilla.  Kings, elves, humans, and demons continue to fight for ultimate supremacy outside Kaer Morhen’s walls.  But if Geralt doesn’t become kibble for the monstrous giant centipede known as the Myriapod, he might fall victim to the princess’ own mysterious magical power.

December 18

Bulgasal: Immortal Souls–For the uninitiated, a bulgasal is a Korean mythical creature that feeds off human blood and is cursed with immortality.  This fantasy series centers around three people who’ve lived for 600 years.  Dan Hwal is a military official who got turned into a bulgasal 600 years ago.  Min Sang Un is a bulgasal who’s been reincarnated as human several times over the last few centuries.  She remembers her past lives, but currently prefers to live in hiding thanks to the murder of her mother and her twin sister.  Ok Eul Tae has used his centuries of existence to become an incredibly wealthy and powerful figure in modern day South Korea.  Needless to say, the paths of these characters will cross.

December 19

What Happened In Oslo–This Israel-Norway thriller mini-series begins with a phone call from Jerusalem to Alexandra (Alex) and Karl.  Their daughter Pia has gone missing in Israel.  In search of their daughter, the couple travels to both Israel and Gaza.  Along the way, they seek the help of Arik and Layla, two people Alex met during the negotiations over what would become the Oslo Accords.  But it will be a video sent by ISIS that shows what’s happened to Pia.  ISIS intends to execute Pia and two other Israelis unless a dozen ISIS prisoners are released.

December 24

Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up–Adam McKay directs this dramatic dark comedy that’s an allegory for humanity’s reaction to the climate crisis.  Ph.D. astronomy candidate Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a deadly comet set on a collision course with Earth.  Along with a fellow scientist, the duo attempts to warn the general public about the impending end of the world.  However, their lack of media savvy, slickness, or even sexiness causes the public to ignore the urgency of their message.  The other members of the film’s incredible cast include Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep.

The Silent Sea Season 1–This South Korean science fiction series is set in a future where desertification has caused Earth to run short on water and food.  A team led by soldier Han Yoon-jae has been sent to the Moon on a 24-hour mission to retrieve a mysterious sample from the abandoned Balhae Base research station.  Problems arise because the station’s steeped in classified secrets…and team members have started dying one by one.

Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous–Now that comedian Bo Burnham has made a name for himself, it’s time to take another look at the MTV comedy series he starred in that may have been ahead of its time.  High school graduate Zach Stone (Burnham) has spent his life savings on a camera crew to follow him around and record his path to becoming a celebrity.  His not knowing what he wants to be famous for doesn’t stop him from trying different ways to reach his goal.  Singing and deliberately going missing turn out to be just two of the ways he tries to achieve fame and fortune.

December 25

Stories Of A Generation with Pope Francis–This documentary series is based on Pope Francis’ book “Sharing The Wisdom Of Time.”  The Pope and other people over 70 share their life experiences and stories on camera with filmmakers under 30.  The series’ four episodes deal with the subjects of Love, Dreams, Struggle, and Work.  Among the elders interviewed are Pope Francis, film director Martin Scorsese, and primatologist Jane Goodall.

December 31

Cobra Kai Season 4–This “Karate Kid” sequel series managed to redeem (sort of) original villain Johnny Lawrence.  But can the series redeem “The Karate Kid Part III,” aka the worst “Karate Kid” movie ever made?  Ralph Macchio et al. are game enough to try.  Terry Silver was introduced in Part III as having served with villainous John Kreese in Vietnam.  Now Silver is back to re-team with Kreese, and as a Cobra Kai co-founder he’s not going to be happy with what Lawrence has done to his dojo.

The Lost Daughter

The Lost Daughter–Actress Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut adapts the Elena Ferrante novella of the same name.  Leda (Olivia Colman) is alone on a seaside vacation.  She becomes obsessed with a young mother (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter as well as their extended family.  Leda’s obsession triggers personal memories of her own actions as a young mother.  More importantly, she’s forced to confront the consequences of the unconventional actions she took all those years ago.

Queer Eye Season 6–The Fab  Five are back, and they’re wearing cowboy boots.  That’s because these gay makeover artists will be spending the new season helping people in Austin, Texas improve themselves.  Get ready to hear a countryfied version of the series theme song “All Things (Just Keep Getting Better).”

Stay Close–It’s a new adaptation of a Harlan Coben novel, this one hailing from England.  Megan (Cush Jumbo) is a working mother with three kids.  Ray (Richard Armitage) is a failed documentary photographer.  Broome (James Nesbitt) is a police detective haunted by a missing person cold case.  What ties these three people together are the ok lives they lead…and the dark secrets each of them conceal.  When Megan’s old friend Lorraine (Sarah Parish) brings some shocking news, those dark secrets will resurface for this trio.   

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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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