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All The Cool Things Coming To Netflix In January

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Winter’s now here, and the more interesting January offerings from Netflix match the season’s characteristic darkness.  Kristen Bell follows up “The Good Place” with a dark comic parody of those unreliable witnesses to murder stories.  Alyssa Milano plays a mystery writer who discovers her sister’s secret dark online life.  And a new TV adaptation of a well-known horror podcast involves an attempt to change the dark fate of an unfortunate documentary maker. 

Food can be a great way to distract from the month’s coldness and darkness.  This month offers shows introducing viewers to the delights of Korean beef and to the sheer insanity of real Mexican cooking.  Ready to chow down with a plate of cooked armadillo?

And for those deterred by the weather and Omicron from enjoying the local nightlife, maybe a series offering vicarious introductions to the wild and crazy nightlife found in such places as Seoul and Bangkok might be the answer.

The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window

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Weekly In January

The Future Diary–In this unusual reality dating show, two young strangers are brought together via diaries that map out the next steps of their relationship.  Supposedly, reaching the last diary entry should be the moment they go their separate ways at the end.  But is it possible that these two strangers will fall in love with each other by the time that fateful entry arrives?   

January 1

Big Fish–Journalist William Bloom (Billy Crudup) has always had a strained relationship with his father Edward Bloom (Albert Finney).  Edward’s penchant for telling tall tales about his life instead of the straight truth accounts for much of William’s alienation from his father.  But even Edward’s impending death doesn’t deter him from spinning yet another tall tale.  William’s decision to start investigating the truth beyond his father’s stories will lead him to understand his father better  Directed by Tim Burton.  

Gremlins–If sweetness and light-filled Christmas movies have left you all grouchy, Joe Dante’s tale of chaos accidentally unleashed on a small town during Christmas may be what you need.  Inventor Randall Peltzer picks up an unusual Christmas pet for his son Billy: a mogwai.  Billy takes to the mogwai and names it Gizmo.  However, havoc soon engulfs the Peltzers’ town of Kingstown Falls after various circumstances result in the breaking of the three rules of mogwai care.  Those rules are:  no exposure to light, no contact with water, and, most importantly, no feeding the mogwai after midnight.

Happy Feet–Who knew George Miller, the man who brought the world the adventures of “Mad Max,” could also do family friendly animated comedy?  In Antarctica, emperor penguins woo their mates by singing their hearts out.  Mumble sees a potential mate in Gloria.  But the latter expects Mumble to sing to show his love…and Mumble can’t sing worth a damn.  He can tap dance like nobody’s business, but how will that be enough to impress Gloria?  Dance choreography by Tony winner Savion Glover.

The Lost Boys–Joel Schumacher directed the film that introduced the concept of young sexy vampires to pop culture.  Brothers Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) Emerson join their recently divorced mother Lucy (Dianne Wiest) for a fresh start in the small beach town of Santa Carla, California.  While Michael becomes fascinated by the beautiful Star (Jami Gertz), Sam meets the Frog Brothers, who claim vampires have infiltrated the town.  This claim turns out to be true, but not before Michael has been partially transformed into a vampire courtesy of David’s (Kiefer Sutherland) biker gang.  Can Michael be saved from being turned into a full vampire?

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver–This certifiably great Martin Scorsese film would jumpstart the careers of writer Paul Schrader and stars Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster.  Insomniac ex-Marine and Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (De Niro) drives a graveyard shift taxicab through New York City’s night streets.  Emotionally alienated from the rest of civilization, he longs to find a way to “become a person like other people.”  But several abortive attempts to fit in will eventually push Bickle to dedicate himself to “wash all the scum off the streets.”. 

January 6

Hanwoo Rhapsody Season 1–All right, meat lovers!  Get ready to party!  This Korean documentary series takes a deep dive into the rich history and traditions of Korean beef.  After watching this series, this unrivaled staple might very well replace more than a few viewers’ affections for Wagyu beef.

January 13

Brazen–What’s a new year without a little bit of silly entertainment?  Alyssa Milano stars in this adaptation of Nora Roberts’ best-selling romantic thriller “Brazen Virtue.”  Best-selling mystery writer and crime expert Grace McCabe (Milano) gets an odd request from her estranged sister to return to the family’s Washington, D.C. home.  There, she discovers that her schoolteacher sister has a secret life as a seamy webcam performer (shock, horror).  Said sister soon becomes a corpse…and Grace is determined to help the police find out who killed her.  Handsome young police detective Ed may tell her to stay away from the active investigation, but if our heroine’s personal investigation doesn’t lead her into danger we wouldn’t have a movie.

Chosen Season 1–This new science fiction series comes from the creators of the Danish hit “The Rain.”  It’s set in the sleepy Danish town of Middelbo.  17 years ago, the town became famous for getting hit by a meteorite.  17-year-old Emma and her friends have grown up hearing that story.  But one day the teen accidentally discovers the story of the meteorite is a lie.  As Emma tries to find out what strange and powerful thing actually hit Middelbo all those years ago, she soon finds that she’s on her own in unraveling the mystery.   

The Journalist–This TV series adapts director Fuji Michihito’s 2019 film of the same name.  Highly respected Toto Newspaper reporter Anna Matsuda is what’s known in Japanese journalist circles as a “Shinbun Gyokai no Itanji” (journalistic nonconformist).  Her strong beliefs compel her to get to the bottom of every story.  That dedication to exposing the corruption wracking Japanese society will put her on a collision course with powerful foes who prefer their scandalous behavior stay hidden from public view.   

The Journalist

Photocopier–Suryani attends college on a scholarship.  But when a selfie of a very drunk Suryani starts circulating online, the scholarship gets revoked as punishment for the student’s allegedly bringing disgrace to the faculty.  Yet on the night the selfie was taken, the last thing Suryani remembers was blacking out at a college party.  To figure out what happened, the disgraced student turns to childhood friend Amin, who works as a photocopier.  Director Wregas Bhanuteja’s debut film won a dozen Indonesian film awards including Best Picture.

January 14

After Life Season 3–It’s the final season of Ricky Gervais’ comedy about picking up the pieces after a personal loss and finding a new purpose in life.  When the series began, Tony (Gervais) was dealing with the loss of his wife.  As Season 3 begins, the death of Tony’s father has dealt him a setback on his healing journey.  Meanwhile, the struggle to save the local newspaper may give Tony the new purpose he seeks.  And will a new relationship between Tony and Emma go anywhere?

Archive 81 Season 1–This horror series based on Marc Sollinger and Daniel Powell’s podcast of the same name is telling an original story for TV.  Archivist Dan Turner takes on the job of restoring a bunch of damaged videotapes dating from 1994.  He discovers the videotapes were part of an investigation by documentary filmmaker Melody Pendras into the activities of a dangerous cult.  Pendras would die horribly in 1994.  Can Turner somehow save the filmmaker from that deadly fate?

Archive 81

The House–This stop-motion animated dark comedy anthology follows the fates of a house and its inhabitants (including talking mice and cats) in three different realities.  A different director helms each episode.  The voice talent includes Mia Goth, Miranda Richardson, and Helena Bonham Carter.

January 16

Phantom Thread–Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s last feature-length film prior to “Licorice Pizza” is this post-World War II drama set in the world of high fashion.  Couturier and man of meticulous habits Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis in his last film performance) takes young waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) into his household.  The ex-waitress’ role may be that of Woodcock’s lover or muse.  Yet both the dressmaker and the former waitress are strong-willed individuals who will clash with each other.

January 19

Heavenly Bites: Mexico–If you think regular trips to S.F. Mission District restaurants makes you an expert on Mexican cuisine, this docuseries will show you how greatly mistaken you are.  Mexican cuisine, as properly practiced, involves blending national dishes with regional specialties and an anything goes aesthetic to produce tasty results.  Think anything from a 10-15 story burger to tacos inside a torta to dishes of Juchitan armadillo.

The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman–-This true crime documentary examines the criminal career of Robert Hendy-Freeguard.  Over the course of a decade, Hendy-Freeguard managed to steal close to a million pounds from seven women and one man.  His cover story was that he was an undercover agent working in the security services against the IRA.  The conman managed to convince his marks that they were somehow in danger from the IRA, but that he could help them go into “hiding” in exchange for giving him control of their money.  The results of the various cons would be unpleasant for Hendy-Freeguard’s victims.

January 20

Midnight Asia: Eat – Dance – Dream–In this new food and travel docuseries, visit six Asian megacities (including Seoul, Taipei, and Bangkok) at night.  Get ready to discover each city’s unique food, clubs, and subcultures as well as the unique characters who populate the nightlife of these metropolises.   

Midnight Asia: Eat. Drink. Love

January 21

Munich – The Edge Of War–This controversial adaptation of Robert Harris’ best-selling novel “Munich” attempts to argue that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain does not deserve history’s condemnation as an idiot fooled by Adolf Hitler.  At the third Munich Conference, Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) makes a last ditch attempt to persuade Hitler not to go to war.  Meanwhile, German official Paul von Hartmann is trying to get in touch with former Oxford classmate Hugh Legat, who’s attached to Chamberlain’s party.  Hartmann wants to pass along secret documents showing Hitler intends to conquer all of Europe so that Chamberlain can be motivated to stand up to the Fuhrer.

January 24

Three Songs For Benazir–This short documentary looks at life for refugees in modern day Afghanistan.  Subject Shaista lives with his new wife Benazir in a displaced persons camp in Kabul.  On one hand, he wants to be the first man in his tribe to join the Afghan National Army.  On the other hand, his father and brothers are pressuring Shaista to start a family with Benazir.  Over the course of four years, the film shows the hard decisions Shaista must make to have a future with his new wife.

Three Songs For Benazir

January 25

Neymar: The Perfect Chaos–Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. has become one of the most famous soccer players in the world.  After joining Brazil’s National Team at age 18, his goal-scoring record is eclipsed only by that of the legendary Pele.  In addition, Neymar Jr. holds a number of soccer world records including fastest-ever Olympic goal.  This docuseries traces Neymar Jr.’s career, including his time with FC Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain, without ignoring the controversies that have also dogged him.

January 28

Feria: The Darkest Light–An Andalusian village in the 1990s is the setting for this Spanish fantasy thriller series.  Teenage sisters Eva and Sofia discover their parents have suddenly disappeared.  But before they had vanished, the father and mother had participated in a cult ritual which resulted in the deaths of 23 people.  The two teens will soon discover that the other villagers are not as naive as they appear…and that there’s a fantastical universe they’re about to discover.

Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness–Jonathan Van Ness (“Queer Eye”)’ podcast gets a television adaptation.  In each episode, Van Ness and a guest expert examine anything and everything under the sun that the host is curious about.

The Orbital Children

The Orbital Children Season 1–This anime series is set in the year 2045 (yes I know, but just roll with it), when the Internet and artificial intelligence are now used widely in outer space.  A group of children (2 born on the Moon, 3 born on Earth) need to find a way to survive when a massive accident at a newly opened Japanese space station results in their being left behind without hope of rescue by adults.  Using some low grade communication media and AI tools, can these kids somehow survive?  And what’s their connection to a terrifying prophecy made by the world’s most advanced AI? 

The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window Season 1–Kristen Bell (“The Good Place”) stars in this dark comic parody of the “Rear Window” suspense thriller genre.  Heartbroken shut-in Anna (Bell) nurses her broken heart daily with plenty of glasses of wine and more than a few prescription drugs.  Her only activity is staring out the window and watching the world go by.  One day, a handsome new neighbor moves into the house across the street from Anna, and things start to look up.  But when Anna witnesses a brutal murder, her drinking and drug use make her the world’s worst person for convincing others she actually did see a kiling take place.  

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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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