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All The Great Stuff Coming To Netflix In January 2023

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For those who find comfort in the familiar, Netflix opens January with the entire “Rocky” series and such Tom Cruise blockbusters as “Minority Report” and the original “Top Gun.”

Those who are happy stepping out of their programming comfort zones will find Netflix’s offerings from Asia this month particularly appealing. Horror fans can enjoy animated adaptations of the stories of Junji Ito. The director of “Train To Busan” shifts gears with a science fiction actioner involving an A.I. soldier. And the acclaimed award-winning director of “Shoplifters” helms a series set in the world of apprentice geishas. 

Whether your interests run to teen ghost hunters in an alternate world England or learning the true story of a Pez dispenser smuggler, Netflix’s January offerings will offer more than a few entertaining surprises.   

January 1

The Aviator—This epic biopic directed by Martin Scorsese shows how Howard Hughes was a real deal innovator (as opposed to the public braggart known as the Musk Rat).  Not only did Hughes (Leonardo di Caprio) break a world record in flying around the world, but he was also an inventor, owner of TWA, and lover of famed Hollywood stars Katherine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).  Yet what is the bigger threat to Hughes’ future: a rigged public Senate hearing or Hughes’ own OCD?

Brokeback Mountain–Why not counterprogram the performative hate show of the new Rethuglican-dominated House of Representatives with Ang Lee’s classic gay romance?  In 1963, rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) take a summer job herding sheep in Wyoming.  During a fateful night on Brokeback Mountain, the two men become more than just co-workers.  But Ennis in particular tries to treat that fateful night as a one-off thing.  His marriage to longtime sweetheart Alma (Michelle Williams) seems to confirm this attitude.  Yet over the next two decades, neither man seems capable of fully quitting the other.

Monster

Monster–Naoki Urasawa’s acclaimed manga gets the anime adaptation treatment.  Kenzou Tenma is a gifted brain surgeon practicing at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf, Germany.  But his promising career and life grinds to a stop thanks to one fateful decision to save the life of young Johan Liebert, who was shot in the head.  When the town mayor dies as a result of Tenma’s decision, his golden life evaporates.  However, the mysterious murders of the Eisler doctors blocking Tenma’s career path leads to the brain surgeon eventually becoming Eisler’s head of surgery.  Now the surgeon will find a very good reason to further regret his earlier decision, one which involves a decades-old mystery he must solve.

Old Enough! Season 2–It’s the return of the charming Japanese reality TV show that will give overprotective parents a week of anxiety attacks.  For the newbies, the series follows children aged between two to five years old as they complete their first errand alone in their home city.  The errands range from dropping off an apron to picking up a piece of jewelry.  For the curious, the kids’ parents are indeed watching footage of their child’s progress in real time.  Meanwhile, the film crew wears various disguises to not break the illusion of the child being on their own.

The Raid 2–All you need to know about this thrilling sequel to Indonesian action classic “The Raid” is that Rama (Iko Uwais) is one of the few survivors of a police apartment building raid that brought down a drug lord but at a terrible cost.  Now he joins an anti-corruption task force determined to expose police commissioner Reza’s secret dealings with the Bangun and Goto gangs.  The key to the task force’s efforts is for Rama to ingratiate himself with Bangun’s son Uco and to show his usefulness to Bangun’s gang.  But Uco’s ambition and such fearsome killers as the Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) endanger Rama’s ability to complete his mission.

January 4

The Kings Of The World–Ra is a teen who survives by scavenging on the streets of Medellin with his found family of four brothers.  One day, a long awaited letter from the government arrives, telling Ra that land impounded from his family by paramilitary groups is being returned to him.  Seeing the possibility of a fresh start with a place to call home, Ra and his brothers set out on a journey through rural Colombia to claim the land.  However, the boys will soon discover that the history of violence and oppression has not departed the Colombian countryside.

The Kings Of The World

January 5

Copenhagen Cowboy–Director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”) helms this six part journey through Copenhagen’s underworld.  The mysterious Miu has spent a lifetime being enslaved as a human good luck charm.  Now that she’s free of her captors, it’s time for revenge against those who wronged her.  But Miu’s retribution trip will take her into a netherworld where the natural and the supernatural coexist and her main ally may very well be her nemesis Karel.  Say what you will about Refn, but predictability is definitely not his primary storytelling tool.

Mars One–Gabriel Martins’ dramedy follows the struggles of a Brazilian lower middle-class family of four to find ways to escape their social circumstances and better themselves.  Matriarch Tercia works as a housekeeper for a minor TV celebrity.  Husband Wellington works as a caretaker at an upscale apartment building.  Son Delvinho longs to study astrophysics and become part of humanity’s first Martian colony.  Daughter Eunice may be studying law, but she also hasn’t told her parents about her burgeoning relationship with the privileged Joana.  Can these four strivers find common ground?                    

January 6

Mumbai Mafia: Police Vs. The Underworld–This docuseries takes viewers back to the streets of 1990s Mumbai, and the war that raged there.  Terrorist Dawood Ibrahim’s gang D-Company ran wild with its racketeering, its drugs business, and its willingness to use violence to get its way.  Rising up to oppose Ibrahim’s thugs were the members of the police’s Encounter Specialists.  The job of these maverick officers was to take back the streets, aided by their license to gun down their criminal targets.

January 10

The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker—This documentary recounts the strange story of a carefree hitchhiker who went from social media star to murder suspect in the space of three months.  Caleb “Kai” McGillivary had been hitchhiking his way around California.  But one particular ride in February 2013 ended with McGillivary’s protectively taking a hatchet to the man driving him.  A local TV news clip of Kai’s recreation of his work with the hatchet went viral, turning him into a social media star.  But how did Kai go from folk herodom to facing life in prison?

January 11

Sexify Season 2–This Polish dramedy centers on aspiring tech student Natalia, whose big plan to win a tech competition involves developing an application that can excite users’ sexual curiosity and desires.  Her ignorance about sex leads her to join forces with best friend Paulina and her roommate Monika to do research into creating a formula for the female sexual climax.  In Season 2, Natalia and her friends find turning the app into a business startup is far more challenging and stressful than expected thanks to a demanding investor and chaos in their own personal lives.

The Makanai: Cooking For The Maiko House

January 12

The Makanai: Cooking For The Maiko House–Cannes Palme d’Or winner and internationally acclaimed director Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Shoplifters”) helms this adaptation of Aiko Koyama’s manga.  Close friends since childhood Kiyo Nozuki and Sumire Hirae have moved from the country to Kyoto’s Gion district hoping to become maiko (apprentice geishas).  However, it turns out that Kiyo lacks the personality traits needed to become a successful maiko.  So instead, Kiyo becomes a Makanai (a traditional cook) for the other maikos in the house including Sumire.

Vikings: Valhalla Season 2—As the new season begins for this historic actioner set in the age of Vikings, the fall of Kattegat means Leif, Freydis, and Harald are now fugitives in Scandinavia.  They will have to travel far outside their comfortable fjords (and their comfort zones) if they want to survive.  Things will heat up between Freydis and Harald, which their different religious beliefs will complicate.  Harald plans to make a bid to become king of Norway.  Freydis is about to learn what it truly means to be “The Last Daughter Of Uppsala,” for better or worse.       

January 13

Dog Gone–Dog story fans will want to check out this adaptation of Pauls Toutonghi’s book of the same name.  On October 10, 1998, Fielding Marshall was hiking along the Appalachian Trail with beloved family dog Gonker.  Suddenly, the yellow labrador bolted into the woods and disappeared.  The dog’s vanishing takes on added urgency because he has Addison’s disease.  If the canine is not given his life saving medication in twenty-three days, he’ll die.  Fielding’s father John (Rob Lowe) decides to hike along the trail with his son to try finding Gonker.  But the younger Marshall’s confidence in his father’s plan is undermined by the frayed relationship between them.

Sky Rojo Season 3–It’s the final season of this “prostitutes on the run” thriller from “Money Heist” creator Alex Pina.  As the new season begins, hooker heroines Gina, Wendy, and Coral have escaped their pimp Romeo and have also stolen from him a nice nest egg of four million euros.  They think they can find safety in Madeira, especially as one of them is pregnant.  Except Romeo uses the port for his business and the people working for him there will be warned to watch out for the trio.  Meanwhile, Moises has been tricked into thinking the three hookers were responsible for killing his mother and torturing his brother, and he wants revenge.

Jung_E

Trial By Fire—This limited series centers on a notorious tragedy from the 1990s.  In June 1997, South Delhi’s Uphaar Cinema caught on fire.  59 people were killed and 100 people injured as a result of the blaze.  The incident proved personal for Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy as their two children were among the fatalities.  The Krishnamoorthys decide to seek justice for those deaths, but their struggle would take twenty-four years.  Based on an unfortunately true story.

January 17

The Devil To Pay–Lemon Cassidy lives a hardscrabble existence as an Appalachian tenant farmer on land owned by the powerful Runion family.  Her life and that of her son is put in danger when she learns from Runion family matriarch Tommy that her husband has fled after stealing something valuable from the Runions.  The landowners want what Mr. Cassidy stole, returned…or else.  A bizarre religious commune which uses sulfuric acid in its “baptism” ceremonies will somehow figure into Lemon’s search.  

January 19

Junji Ito Maniac: Japanese Tales Of The Macabre—This anime anthology series adapts twenty stories from the pen of horror manga master Junji Ito. The tales to be adapted include “The Story Of The Mysterious Tunnel,” “Mold,” and “Hanging Balloon.”  In addition, stories featuring Ito’s popular characters Tomie and Souichi will be here as well.  Don’t expect adaptations of any stories from Ito’s cat diary, though.

The Pez Outlaw—Strange-but-true Documentary honors of the month goes to this crime story.  The title refers to small-town Michigan machinist Steve Glew.  Pez dispenser collecting was his way of battling personal depression.  But that hobby did nothing for the reality that his family was badly in debt.  The fall of the Berlin Wall would provide an unexpected source of salvation.  Somewhere in Eastern Europe was a secret factory that played a key role in accessing the rarest and most valuable Pez dispensers.  When Glew finds that factory, he winds up becoming a rich smuggler.  However, Glew’s arch-nemesis The Pezident is determined to destroy him.

January 20

Jung_E—Yeon Sang-ho (“Train To Busan”) helms this post-apocalyptic science fiction action thriller.  In the 22nd century, Earth’s surface has become uninhabitable thanks to unchecked climate change.  The remnants of humanity are forced to live in outer space shelters.  But a decades-long civil war threatens to decimate what remains of the human race.  In hopes of ending the war, Kronoid Lab’s head Sang-Hoon and research team lead Seohyun decide to copy the brain data from legendary mercenary and military strategist Yun Jung-yi.  That information will be the backbone for creating the cutting-edge advanced A.I. combat warrior Jung_E.     

Physical: 100

January 24

Physical: 100—Ready for Netflix’s first South Korean reality survival series?  Take 100 contestants in top physical shape.  Have these contestants come from different age classes, physiques, genders, and even nationalities.  Pit them against multiple physical challenges such as staying hoisted on a metal bar while dangling over a pool.  Their primary tools are their strength and their dexterity.  Whoever’s the last person left standing can claim both the title of ultimate physique and the show’s cash prize.  If this show doesn’t get screened at a local gay bar or two, then S.F.’s gay nightlife needs an overhaul.

January 27

Kings Of Jo’burg Season 2–In this South African blend of crime drama and the supernatural, the Masire brothers rule the criminal underworld of Johannesburg.  However, terrestrial enemies and a supernatural family curse may well destroy their reign and their empire.  As the new season begins, Mo Masire has become the new King of Jo’burg following the death of his brother Simon.  He has little leeway for error despite being under severe emotional stress.  But in the background, the mysterious supernatural threat to the Masire clan (represented by people with glowing light blue eyes) starts to take shape.  

Lockwood & Co.–Joe Cornish (“Attack The Block”) adapts Jonathan Stroud’s YA fantasy detective thriller series for television.  It’s set in a London plagued by an epidemic of ghosts whose touch can bring death.  In this world where the digital revolution never happened, teen psychic Lucy Carlyle (Ruby Stokes, “Bridgerton”) decides to join the small ghost-hunting startup known as Lockwood & Co.  Before Carlyle’s arrival, the company consisted of teen founder Anthony Lockwood and assistant George Karim.  Together, the trio of unsupervised teens who don’t hunt ghosts for monetary gain will find themselves involved in a grand mystery, one whose solution will change the course of history.  

Lockwood & Co.

The Snow Girl–One of Netflix’s hotly anticipated premieres is this adaptation of Javier Castillo’s best-selling novel.  Amaya Martin and her family went to the Three Wise Men parade, a normally joyous and magical family event.  When Amaya disappears in the crowd, the celebration turns into a nightmare.  Trainee journalist Miren and police inspector Millan begin separate investigations to find the missing child.  But enough time passes without success that people have started presuming Amaya is dead.  Miren, though, hasn’t given up hope as she feels Amaya has left enigmatic clues to her whereabouts.  Yet decoding the child’s clues will require the journalist to face unpleasant past experiences she had forgotten. 

You People–Kenya Barris (“Black-ish”) directed and co-wrote this star-studded cringe comedy about modern relationships and race relations.  Ezra Cohen (co-writer Jonah Hill) and Amira Mohammed (Lauren London) are a Los Angeles interracial Millennial couple in love.  They figure it’s time to get married.  But convincing their skeptical parents to agree to the idea is a different challenge altogether.  For example, Cohen’s attempt to convince Mohammed’s parents (Eddie Murphy and Nia Long) he’s not like other white people might have worked slightly better if he hadn’t chosen Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles as a meeting place.  Also starring David Duchovny and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Cohen’s parents.

January 31

Cunk On Earth–In this mockumentary series produced by Charlie Brooker, Philomena Cunk (Diane Morgan) tells the entire story of human civilization, from prehistoric times to the present day.  Along the way, viewers will be treated to such hard-hitting questions as “Why weren’t cave paintings adapted into Spielberg movies” or “Was Jesus Christ the first celebrity victim of cancel culture?” 

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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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