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The Cool Stuff On Hulu In January 2023

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January means the start of a new year.  It also unfortunately means the start of the Rethuglican-dominated House Of Representatives playing poo baseball with the legislative process.  Fortunately, Hulu’s January offerings include several titles likely to send those wannabe fascists into public screeching frenzies.

There’s an acclaimed pro-abortion film from France.  A powerful documentary shows the roots of American police militarization.  Colin Kaepernick executive produces a documentary series demonstrating why the Bakersfield Police Department deserves the #ACAB tag.  And  those bigots considering “The 1619 Project” to be the alleged epitome of so-called “anti-white racism” will predictably hate on the upcoming docuseries expanding on the project’s central thesis of slavery’s long negative legacy on American history.

Whether you’re watching Hulu for a biopic dramatizing polyamory’s role in the creation of Wonder Woman or looking at a comedy about being ordinary in a world where everybody else is literally extraordinary, get ready for a January that will be anything but dull programming-wise.

January 1

A League Of Their Own

A League Of Their Own–Enchanted by the hit Amazon series of the same name and curious about the original film it rebooted?  Here’s your chance to take a look.  Ir’s 1943, and World War II has pulled a lot of professional male athletes into the American war effort.  To keep interest in baseball going, a group of Major League Baseball team owners bankroll the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  But the female athletes of the All-American Girls League soon discover that creating baseball teams doesn’t necessarily mean people will come to watch them play.  This is the story of the members of the Rockford Peaches, and how they fought for public respect while also dealing with the stresses of wartime life.  While Penny Marshall’s 1992 film may be based on a true story, this version turns into subtext the lesbian presence in the real-life League and downplays the period’s open racism.

Heat–Michael Mann’s classic crime drama concerns the cat and mouse relationship between two men on opposite sides of the law: professional thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and LAPD lieutenant Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino).  McCauley wants to pull off one last big heist before retiring; Hanna wants to find and stop McCauley.  However, each man’s attempts to fulfill their goals has personal complications.  McCauley has a very loose cannon subordinate.  Hanna has both an unfaithful wife and a mentally ill stepdaughter (Natalie Portman).  Both cop and crook respect each other, but they won’t hesitate to kill the other if needed.

Little Manhattan–10-year-old Gabe (Josh Hutcherson), a new student at a kids’ karate class, learns his sparring partner is 11-year-old Rosemary Telesco (Charlie Ray).  At first, he thinks nothing of it.  The boy’s known Rosemary since elementary school and he’s hated girls all his life.  But Gabe’s continued contact with Rosemary soon brings on the confusing stirrings of first love…and an inability to express his true feelings towards the girl.  Meanwhile, Gabe’s parents Adam (Bradley Whitford) and Leslie (Cynthia Nixon) want to both get divorced and have custody of their son.  The boy meanwhile has to adjust to seeing his mother in the company of other men.  Time’s running out for Gabe to figure out his feelings, though, as Rosemary will soon be heading for summer camp and then private school.  

Predestination–Time travel plays a key role in this Australian adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s classic short science fiction story “—All You Zombies–.”  A Temporal Agent (eventually played by Ethan Hawke) has gone undercover as a bartender in 1970s New York City in hopes of stopping an elusive criminal known as the Fizzle Bomber.  While on bartending duty, he strikes up a conversation with a customer, an androgynous looking guy known as The Unmarried Mother (Sarah Snook, “Succession”).  The guy’s name comes from writing confession magazine tales of woe.  But the real surprises of The Unmarried Mother’s life begin with the revelation that he was once an abandoned female infant named Jane.  Where The Unmarried Mother’s story goes from there is both mind-bending and yet perfectly logical.

Professor Marston And The Wonder Women—Who knew one of superhero comics’ greatest heroines was inspired by both a polyamorous relationship and an interest in BDSM?  In the mid-1920s, married Radcliffe College psychology professors William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) and Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) meet student Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote).  What begins as a teacher-student relationship will eventually morph into mutual lust and love.  But given the conservative social mores of the time, the trio will eventually need to make compromises to keep their unconventional family afloat.  Marston will be inspired by such things as a certain burlesque outfit and Olive’s fondness for wearing large bracelets to create Wonder Woman.  As this is a biopic as opposed to a documentary, director Angela Robinson engages in a lot of fanciful speculation about the (private in real life) relationship among the Marstons and Byrne.

The Triplets Of Belleville

The Triplets Of Belleville–Sylvain Chomet’s delightful mostly dialogue-free animated adventure comedy mixes together bicycle racing, underworld gangs, and a Jazz Age singing trio.  Madame Souza has helped raise her grandson Champion to be a Tour de France contender.  But when the boy gets kidnapped by underworld thugs during the race, she sets off with faithful dog Bruno to rescue him. Aiding the determined old lady are the Belleville Sisters, a musical trio who’ve fallen on hard times.

January 3

Fantasy Island Season 2–In this sequel to the titular 1970s drama series, Mr. Roarke’s descendant Elena Roarke runs an exclusive island paradise where guests come to explore their wildest dreams (and hopefully deal with the personal emotional baggage behind those dreams).  As the new season begins, Ruby Akuda has become Elena Roarke’s second-in-command.  There’s still lingering tension between Roarke and the mysterious Fernando, who feels badly cheated by an important decision she made. 

January 8

True Things–Kate (Ruth Wilson) has an unfulfilling job as a benefit claims officer and an equally unsatisfying lonely personal life.  Things change when she meets Blond (Tom Burke).  He may just have been released from prison, but his dyed blond hair and a rakish grin strikes a chord in Kate.  Soon the two begin an intense sexual relationship.  Blond’s mercurial behavior becomes emotionally addictive for Kate, which eventually causes devastating consequences to her life.

January 9

Koala Man–-This adult superhero animated comedy takes viewers to the Australian suburb of Dapto.  It may look like a sleepy suburb, but it’s actually a den of evil forces and petty criminals.  Fortunately, Dapto has a protector in the form of Koala Man.  Kevin may look like an ordinary middle-aged father in his civilian guise.  But as Koala Man, he applies his superpower of fiery passion for following such rules as the right day to put out the garbage cans.

January 11

Port Protection, Alaska Season 6–Welcome to Port Protection.  It’s a rain forest-like area in Alaska’s southeast which is home to a community of survivalists.  Here, a person can live free and independent of the encumbrances of civilization.  But there are costs: isolation, physical and mental hardships, and the unprotected fierceness of Nature in the wintertime.  This documentary series follows the travails of survivalists determined to thrive in this harsh landscape.    

Riotsville U.S.A.

January 12

Riotsville USA—One of 2022’s most disturbing documentaries makes its streaming debut.  The title refers to a mock village created on an American military base for the purposes of training law enforcement personnel in putting down 1960s civil unrest.  Film and broadcast TV footage shot during the 1960s shows both Riotsville in operation and the broader sociopolitical context in which Riotsville existed.  But as director Sierra Pettengill shows, this fake American town becomes a metaphoric embodiment of the unwillingness of America’s decision makers to make the deep and broad social changes needed to combat the causes of social unrest.  

January 13

The Drop–Young couple Lex and Mani seem to have it all.  They’re deeply in love with each other, their Los Angeles artisanal bakery is thriving, and they both want to have children.  So heading to a destination resort for a friend’s island wedding feels like a great time to start making babies.  But shortly after arriving, Lex accidentally drops a friend’s baby in public.  Lex and Mani soon face recriminations, the resurfacing of old hurts, and the transformation of this vacation in paradise into Purgatory.  (Note: No babies were harmed in making this film.)

January 15

Paris, 13th District–Director Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”) adapts two interconnected stories by cartoonist Adrian Tomine via a script co-written by Celine Sciamma (“Petite Maman”).  In Paris’ Les Olympiades high rises, young Emilie’s ad for a roommate gets answered by male teacher Camille.  Sexual attraction between the two gets established early.  But what happens when Emilie takes the relationship more seriously?  Meanwhile, student Nora (Noemie Merlant) gets abused by other students when she’s mistaken for notorious cam girl Amber Sweet.  When Nora contacts Amber to brainstorm a solution to the problem, an unexpected relationship develops.   

January 19

Web Of Death–This new docuseries follows amateur online sleuths as they use everything from digital footprints to DNA databases to solve mysterious murder cases.  The investigations include identifying a human skull found inside a bucket of cement, finding a lottery winner who mysteriously vanished, and helping a grieving father find the person who fatally shot his teenage daughter.

Happening

January 22

Happening—Another important film from 2022 makes its streaming debut.  Audrey Diwan’s adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s semiautobiographical novel takes place in 1960s France.  Anne is a bright literature student studying for her university entrance exams.  But her hopes of passing her exams soon drop precipitously when she discovers she’s pregnant.  She really doesn’t want to have a child just yet.  But this is a time in France when getting an abortion (or even helping someone do so) earns you prison time, and many doctors are opposed to performing the procedure.

January 23

Accused–It’s yet another attempt to adapt a nifty award-winning British show for American television.  Each episode of this anthology series about crime and punishment is set in a different city with a different defendant and a different crime involved.  The viewer learns through flashbacks the events and fateful decisions that led the defendant to this courtroom.  How incisive will this series be?  Well, producer Howard Gordon co-created “Homeland” and was the showrunner for “24,” so YMMV.

January 25

Extraordinary Season 1—Get ready for this new comedic spin on superheroes.  In the show’s world, people generally manifest a superpower on their 18th birthday.  Meet East Londoner Jen, who’s 25 yet has not manifested any special abilities.  As a result, she’s stuck in a dead-end job and is constantly in danger of falling into self-pity.  Learning such characters as a stray cat named Jizzlord has more superpowers than her does little for Jen’s self-esteem.  With the support of friends and roommates, Jen sets out to find her maybe superpower.  But she might wind up discovering happiness with being just ok is its own special power.

January 26

The 1619 Project–Get ready for Florida Guv Death Sentence and other right-wing bigots to have lots of public meltdowns over this upcoming docuseries.  Nikole Hannah-Jones hosts this TV expansion of her best-selling book of the same name.  Each episode reframes American history by centering the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.  The legacy of this “peculiar institution” would wind up affecting American life in such areas as democracy, capitalism, and fear.  Depending on who you are, this will be either must-see or must-hate TV.

The Drop

Killing County–Colin Kaepernick executive produced this documentary mini-series narrated by Andre Holland.  Bakersfield, California might be described as a big city with the soul of a small town.  It is here that the Ramirez family loses a loved one in a deadly hotel shooting.  As they search for answers to what happened and why, they learn of the possible culpability of Bakersfield police in their loved one’s death…and the cops’ involvement in other unjustified homicides.  So who can the Ramirezes and people like them turn to for justice?      

January 27

The Deer King–Masashi Ando (“Your Name,” “Paprika”) makes his directorial debut with this animated fantasy epic.  Thanks to his being a soldier in a brutal war’s losing side, Van is now an enslaved mine worker.  When an attack by a band of vicious disease-carrying dogs leaves Van and a young girl named Yuna as the sole survivors, the duo are free for the first time in a long while.  But it soon becomes clear that if Van wants to protect Yuna, he’ll need to discover the cause of the deadly disease as well as its possible cure.

January 31

Love, Gilda–This cinematic biography looks at the life and career of iconic “Saturday Night Live” comedian Gilda Radner.  Utilizing diary excerpts, videotapes, audiotapes, and statements from friends and colleagues, the film gives the viewer a window into the beloved creator of such immortal comic characters as Lisa Loopner.

The Watchful Eye–Julie Durk (“Grace And Frankie”) created this thriller series set in a landmark Manhattan apartment building known as The Greybourne.  This edifice is inhabited by wealthy residents who all have dark secrets and ulterior motives.  Into this snakepit comes young Elena Santos, the new live-in nanny for Jasper.  The boy is the son of Matthew, a self-made architect and grieving widower.  Elena may have walked into a situation where she might be in way over her head.  But the new nanny has a few secrets of her own.

 

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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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