As Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, et al. add more content, it can be difficult to know what to look for amidst all of the newly added titles. Every month, I compile a list of particularly noteworthy and interesting movies and TV shows to add to your streaming queues.
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Make no mistake, Johnny Mnemonic is not a good movie. Adapted from the William Gibson short story, it stars a pre-Matrix Keanu Reeves as an information courier who carries secret information in his brain and must escape the clutches of a villainous mega-corporation. Confession: I’m a sucker for ’90s-era cyberpunk and computer movies. They’re totally ridiculous, and yet, at the same time, there’s something charming about how dystopic they thought the future would be. (Surprise twist: It could be argued that today is far more dystopic than any imagined cyberpunk future.)
A western film produced by Jay-Z and starring Idris Elba, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, LaKeith Stanfield, and Delroy Lindo?! Yes, please. As the film’s tagline puts it, “This ain’t your granddaddy’s Western!” The cast looks like they’re having a blast with this one, and the film’s storyline — in which two rival outlaw gangs square off — promises plenty of bloody action. Put simply, The Harder They Fall looks like a rip-roarin’ good time.
A “red notice” is essentially an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol. Or, in the case of this Netflix original, it’s an excuse to bring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot together for a globe-trotting heist movie. Johnson plays an FBI profiler on the trail of the world’s most notorious thief (Gadot), which requires joining forces with her chief rival (Reynolds). Given the stars involved, expect plenty joke-filled banter in-between expensive set pieces, over-the-top action sequences, and inevitable double-crosses.
One of the most popular and beloved anime series of all time gets a live action adaptation. Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, and Faye Valentine are a group of bounty hunters who always seem down on their luck. Each one of them’s haunted by ghosts from the past, especially Spike, whose past holds some particularly deadly secrets. Live-action anime adaptations are tricky, but everything about this one seems promising so far, from the design to the casting to the fact that original composer Yoko Kanno — whose “Tank!” is one of the greatest theme songs of all time — will be scoring Netflix’s series, as well.
I know that some He-Man fans were disappointed by the first part of Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Set after Skeletor apparently killed He-Man and nearly destroyed the existence of all magic in the universe, Revelation presented a grimmer, more dystopic view of Eternia and its inhabitants. I, however, thought it was an intriguing twist on the beloved franchise, which could’ve simply traded on mere nostalgia — so I’m excited for Part 2. The series’ voice cast included Diedrich Bader, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Lena Headey, and best of all, Mark Hamill as Skeletor.
When a Japanese photographer discovers a camera that supposedly belongs to a legendary mountaineer that went missing on Mount Everest, he determines to find out the truth behind the camera — even if that means ascending Everest himself. This French-produced animation title is based on the acclaimed manga by Jiro Taniguchi (which was, itself, based on Baku Yumemakura’s novel). In a slight break from the norm, Netflix debuted The Summit of the Gods in theaters and film festival before its arrival on the streaming platform.
Here’s everything arriving on Netflix in November 2021.
In this hilarious parody/homage to classic blaxploitation films, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is the baddest mofo in the hood. But in order to defeat The Man who killed his brother, the dealers pumping heroin into the streets, and the fiendish Dr. Wu’s kung fu treachery, Black Dynamite will have to unleash his full martial arts fury… and show the ladies some love, too.
Breakin’ 2 helped solidify breakdancing’s pop culture dominance in the ’80s with its story of some plucky youngsters using the power of breakdancing to stop a wealthy developer from demolishing a community center in order to build a — gasp! — shopping mall. Come for the dance battles, outrageous fashion, and classic soundtrack; stay for the awesome Ice-T cameo as a heavy metal rapper.
Before they dazzled everybody with The Lego Movie and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller turned in this delightfully zany adaptation of Judi and Ron Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Bill Hader voices Flint Lockwood, a crazy inventor who solves his town’s crisis by inventing a device that can create any kind of food imaginable. But when the device goes haywire, Flint’s town could be destroyed by massive food disasters. The movie also features the voices of Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, and Mr. T.
Franco Nero (best known for the Django spaghetti westerns) stars as Cole, a war veteran who also happens to be a trained ninja. When he helps out some friends who are being harassed by a wealthy CEO, he soon finds himself face-to-face with an old rival, which forces him to fall back on his lethal ninja training. Enter the Ninja was the first title in Cannon Films’ “Ninja Trilogy” and kicked off the ’80s fascination with ninjas by portraying them as unstoppable and nigh-supernatural assassins.
Featuring cinema’s most infamous wood chipper scene, the Coen Brothers’Fargo is yet another twisted moral tale told with a sense of humor as black as the film’s wintry setting is white. When a hapless car salesman (played to perfection by William H. Macy) contracts with a couple of goons to hold his wife for ransom, he sets in a motion a twisted tragicomedy of errors that pulls in one of the Coens’ noblest and purest heroes, police chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand).
There are certain movies that, if I ever come across them playing on the TV, I will stop everything I’m doing and watch them. Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is one such movie, with its sci-fi tale about a great evil that can only be stopped by a young woman. Packed to the gills with stunning visuals and set design, as well as an intriguing mythology all its own and a manic sense of energy, The Fifth Element is a blast to watch.
Christopher Nolan’s Inception is about as trippy as big budget Hollywood spectacles get, featuring a group of dream hackers who hire a new recruit to infiltrate the subconscious of an executive. Filled with mind-blowing visuals and some incredibly clever action set pieces — and a hotly debated ending — Inception is proof that Hollywood action movies can be plenty cerebral.
While most of the Marvel titles now go straight to Disney+, Hulu still releases some of the more unusual ones. Case in point: Marvel’s Hit Monkey, which — as you might guess — is about a monkey who also happens to be a very skilled assassin. (Yes, Hit-Monkey is an actual Marvel comics character.) The series stars Jason Sudeikis as Hit-Monkey’s ghostly mentor, George Takei as a Japanese politician, and Olivia Munn as his niece. Some of Marvel’s other Japanese characters will make appearances in the series, such as Lady Bullseye and Silver Samurai.
Here’s everything arriving on Hulu in November 2021.
Amazon Prime Video
Directed by Ridley Scott and featuring creature designs inspired by H. R. Giger, Alien is considered one of the greatest sci-fi and horror movies of all time. When a spaceship crew encounters a derelict alien ship, they unknowingly unleash a monstrous force that threatens to claim every last one of them. Alien was one of the Sigourney Weaver’s first movie roles, and her character Ellen Ripley has since become one of the most iconic female characters in pop culture history.
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.
Mr. Fox has a fantastic life, with a loving wife, good friends, and a good job. But what he really wants to do is steal food and play pranks on the nasty farmers living near his home. Needless to say, hilarity and hijinks ensue. Fantastic Mr. Fox’s blending of stop motion animation with Wes Anderson’s trademark aesthetic and dry humor is a match made in heaven. And the star-studded voice cast — which includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson — is the icing on the cake.
Rushmore tells the story of one Max Fischer, a student at the titular private school. Despite being involved in countless extracurricular clubs, most notably the drama club, he’s a terrible student. Rushmore was one of Wes Anderson’s earliest films, but his aesthetic was fully realized even then. Rushmore is also one of his funniest films — read my review — from Fischer’s rivalry with Bill Murray’s character for the affections of a new teacher to the Vietnam War-inspired high school production that ends the film.
The success of HBO’s Game of Thrones proved that epic fantasy could be successful with the masses. Amazon is doubling down on that premise with series based on two of the biggest fantasy titles of all time. The first of these is an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. In a world where the forces of darkness are stirring, and the final battle between good and evil draws near, a mysterious woman seeks out young men and women with abilities and powers that could save the world — or break it. Jordan’s series consisted of fifteen volumes (confession: I’ve only read about half of them), so suffice to say, Amazon has enough material for many seasons to come if The Wheel of Time proves successful with audiences.
Here’s everything arriving on Amazon Prime Video in November 2021.
OK, so maybe the Rock’s charisma doesn’t work here as well as it did with the Jumanji films. Still, if you’re looking for a fun Friday night popcorn flick to watch with the kids, and you’ve already watched the Jumanji films a bajillion times, then Jungle Cruise — which, like the Pirates of the Caribbean films, was inspired by a Disney theme park ride — is a decent alternative. The film’s best part? Jesse Plemons’ performance as a maniacal German prince.
Marvel’s latest superhero film did surprisingly well at the box office, all things considered (since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic). But more importantly, it’s another attempt by the studio to embrace diversity à la 2018’s Black Panther. In this case, it’s an Asian superhero who also happens to be the son and heir of a vast criminal syndicate, and must choose if he’ll resist his heritage or join his father’s side. Shang-Chi earned high marks for its martial arts action and solid casting, especially Chinese superstars like Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung Chiu-wai.
The Avenger’s master archer gets his own Marvel series courtesy of Disney+. Set after Avengers: Endgame, and intended as a transition to the MCU’s next phase, Hawkeye finds Clint Barton mentoring Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a young woman who might be able to carry on the Hawkeye name. I’m particularly excited about Hawkeye because it’s based in part on Matt Fraction and David Aja’s excellent 2012 comic. Hawkeye will also star Vera Farmiga, Florence Pugh (who made quite the impression in Black Widow), and most importantly, Jolt as Lucky the Pizza Dog.
Here’s everything arriving on Disney+ in November 2021.
Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne, a highly trained and deadly government operative with no memory of his previous life. Not surprisingly, he’s soon at the center of a government conspiracy, with former colleagues putting him in their sights. Followed by The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Identity launched the best action/espionage thriller trilogy of the ’00s.
I consider my first viewing of Caddyshack a foundational experience. Granted, I didn’t understand everything that went on — I just thought it was funny when Bill Murray tried to blow up the golf course — but I’ve since come to appreciate Chevy Chase’s screwball humor, the endless site gags and puns, and of course, that sweet, smooth Kenny Loggins soundtrack.
If you’re looking for something that’s a far cry from the usual holiday fare, then I present to you Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. A young man (played by Malcolm McDowell) obsessed with sex, violence, and Beethoven is subjected to a controversial treatment to cure his anti-social desires, but it all goes wrong. The film was originally rated “X” and stirred up considerable controversy; it wasn’t even widely available in the UK until after Kubrick’s death, nearly 30 years after its initial release.
In Equilibrium, a totalitarian government has outlawed emotions in order to prevent humanity from succumbing to its worst impulses. It’s a corny premise, but Christian Bale brings gravitas to his “tortured lawman” role and the movie’s efficient plot, slick style, and modest scale makes it a fun dystopic ride. Special credit goes to the movie’s martial arts-influenced approach to gun fights, aka “gun kata,” which adds an interesting wrinkle to the many action sequences.
While it’s probably most famous for the boot camp sequences, which feature all manner of colorful and brilliant insults and epithets spewing from the mouth of R. Lee Ermey’s drill sergeant, Full Metal Jacket’s second half is a spellbinding and harrowing journey into the psychological and spiritual hell of war.
Here’s everything arriving on HBO Max in November 2021.