As Netflix et al. add more content, it’s difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. So at the start of every month, I publish a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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Children of Men (November 1)
Alfonso Cuarón’s gripping dystopic movie (adapted from the P. D. James novel) is set in a world where humanity is on the brink of extinction because of global infertility. It boasts some solid performances, particularly from Clive Owen as a former activist tasked with escorting a young refugee who may hold the key to saving humanity. It also boasts some bravura filmmaking in the form of some brilliant single-shot sequences, including a thrilling car chase.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (November 1)
This Steven Spielberg movie about a group of people whose chance encounters with extraterrestrials cause them to leave their lives behind for some unknown quest is a sci-fi classic, if ever there was one. And it still holds up after more than 40 years, thanks to its sense of awe and wonder, which culminates in an iconic scene where the aliens and humans finally learn to communicate with each other.
Jet Li’s Fearless (November 1)
When Fearless was released, it was touted as Jet Li’s final wushu (i.e., traditional martial arts) film. A loose re-telling of the life of Huo Yuanjia, a real-life martial arts master who helped defend China’s national honor in the early 20th century, Fearless easily ranks as one of Li’s best films (read my review). While it boasts some impressive combat sequences (choreographed by the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping), the film’s ultimate message of piece and forgiveness makes it more than just another martial arts epic.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (November 16)
An anthology movie consisting of six stories about the Old West written and directed by the Coen Brothers, and starring Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Brendan Gleeson? Yes, please. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has already screened at several film festivals, where it received consistently high reviews for its dark and bloody humor, hilarious performances, and beautiful score (courtesy of frequent collaborator Carter Burwell).
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (November 22)
Jiro Ono is considered one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs, and has devoted his entire life to perfecting the art of sushi. But, as Jiro Dreams of Sushi makes it clear, his quest is far from over. Even if the thought of sushi turns your stomach, it’s hard not to find Jiro Dreams of Sushi by turns charming, inspiring, and moving. (read my review).
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return, Season 2 (November 22)
Some of you may be too young to remember Turkey Day, Comedy Central’s day-long Thanksgiving Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon. But in keeping with the spirit of Turkey Days long past, Netflix is releasing six more episodes of the fan-resurrected MST3K this Thanksgiving. Jonah Ray and the bots will once again be forced by mad scientists to watch the worst movies ever made. Last time, they watched such gems as Reptilicus, The Beast of Hollow Mountain, and Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. What cinematic triumphs will they have to joke their way through this time?
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Netflix in November 2018.
28 Days Later (November 1)
A man wakes up in a hospital after a zombie plague has decimated England. Together with a ragtag group of survivors, he must find a way to safety even as they discover that human beings can be worse than zombies. On paper, 28 Days Later’s story doesn’t deviate too much from zombie movie tropes, but the vibrancy and immediacy of director Danny Boyle’s visuals elevate the material — and having Godspeed You Black Emperor! on the soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.
The Big Lebowski
Make yourself a White Russian and get ready to spend some time with the Dude… I’ll admit, the first time I watched The Big Lebowski, I kind of hated it. It seemed so directionless and pointless. But then I realized that it’s more about the characters and their interactions then any standard plot (though one does exist). The movie boasts a number of classic scenes, from the discussion about the importance of rugs to a discussion about nihilism. Oh, and the trippiest bowling dream sequence in cinema history.
Invasion U.S.A. (November 1)
What do you do when hundreds of communist guerrillas stage a full-scale invasion of Florida? For my money, I call up Chuck Norris and put a rocket launcher in his hands. As far as invasion flicks go, Red Dawn might get all the press, but I’ll stick with Invasion U.S.A., if only to watch Chuck Norris’ grim visage as he roundhouse kicks terrorist butt from the Everglades to suburban developments to shopping malls.
Italian for Beginners (November 1)
In this charming Danish film, a group of adults who are all struggling with various dysfunctions and issues join an Italian language class and eventually travel to Italy. Shot in accordance with the austere “Dogme 95” rules of filmmaking, Italian for Beginners possesses a warmth and naturalism that adds to its charm. And though its characters are all flawed and broken, you can’t help but root for them to find peace, healing, and maybe even a little love.
Supercop (November 1)
Supercop was one of several Jackie Chan films that were released into American theaters in the mid-to-late ’90s — others included Rumble in the Bronx, First Strike, and Mr. Nice Guy — and it’s my favorite of the lot. Yes, it boasts the crazy, death-defying action sequences you’d expect from a Jackie Chan movie. But as a bonus, it stars Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese officer who works with Chan to take down some drug traffickers. Yeoh easily matches Chan step-for-step, and her stunts even outshine his at times.
Europa Report (November 7)
Proof that sci-fi movies don’t need big budgets to tackle big issues in a thoughtful manner, Europa Report is a low-budget flick about humanity’s potential first contact. Shot with a “found footage” approach that gives the film a documentary-esque feel, and using data from NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory to ensure scientific accuracy, Europa Report is a nice change of pace from effects-filled Hollywood blockbusters.
Big Hero 6 (November 10)
Pixar might get all of the acclaim when it comes to family animated features, don’t count Walt Disney Studios out. Big Hero 6 proves they can still create fun, entertaining films. In the city of San Fransokyo (the film’s futuristic hybrid of Eastern and Western aesthetics is one of its greatest strengths), a young genius named Hiro must work with his brother’s robotic creation and a team of other geniuses to stop a villain from using one of his inventions. Big Hero 6 packs in a lot of cool action, but also has plenty of laughs and big-hearted emotions, too.
Hero (November 18)
In a recent interview, Jet Li talked about turning down the Matrix sequels and instead, choosing to star in Zhang Yimou’s Hero. Which was definitely the right choice: the Matrix sequels were underwhelming (to say the least) while Hero is one of the greatest martial arts films of all time (read my review). It’s certainly one of the most beautiful thanks to stunning visuals, an evocative score, and beautiful costumes. As for the martial arts, they’re the epitome of visual poetry, whether its combatants fighting each other in their minds’ eyes or gliding over a mirror-like lake.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Hulu in November 2018.
Excalibur (November 1)
It’s been ages since we’ve had a really decent King Arthur movie. Indeed, you probably need to go all the way back to 1981’s Excalibur, written and directed by John Boorman. It’s kind of campy in places, but at the same time, it treats the story of King Arthur with the sort of mythic respect that’s sorely lacking from modern Arthurian movies. Also, it boasts an impressive cast, including Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren, and Gabriel Byrne.
The Expanse, Season 3 (November 15)
You could make a good argument for The Expanse being the best sci-fi TV series around, thanks to its gripping, realistic plot about the rising tensions between various factions of humanity in the distant future — tensions that come to a boiling point after a strange phenomena is discovered. Season three was going to be The Expanse’s final season, but after a massive fan protest, Amazon announced that they’d picked up the series for several more seasons — which means even more Chrisjen Avasarala.
Here’s everything arriving on and leaving Amazon in November 2018. As usual, there’s a lot of overlap between Hulu and Amazon Prime’s offerings.