Like a department store that pulls out its winter holiday items weeks before All Hallows’ Eve, Netflix isn’t going to let a little thing like the calendar stop it from bombarding its subscribers with Christmas movies in November. That’s not to say the streamer’s exclusive yuletide rom-coms are all bad — quite the opposite, in fact (consider this your friendly reminder to finally watch “Single All the Way” this year).
Fortunately, if films like “Falling for Christmas” (aka the long-awaited Lindsay Lohan Netflix Christmas movie) aren’t your bag, there are plenty of other options on the service to choose from that month. Perhaps you’d be more inclined to watch “Slumberland,” Francis Lawrence’s fantasy film adaptation of Winsor McCay’s classic “Little Nemo in Slumberland” comic strips starring Jason Momoa as a shaggy-furred half-man, half-animal with mountain goat horns and an impeccably flamboyant fashion sense? You could also go for the brand-new seasons of “Warrior Nun” and “The Crown,” or maybe the third and final installment of “Dead to Me.”
Be you in the mood for something informative like “Is That Black Enough for You?!?” (Elvis Mitchell’s documentary exploring the history of Black cinema, with a focus on the 1970s) or something unexpected like “R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned” (Paul Leyden’s spiritual follow-up to the infamous 2013 Ryan Reynolds/Jeff Bridges bomb “R.I.P.D.,” a thing that exists, and has a trailer to prove it), you’ve got a variety of choices to go with. Let’s take a closer look at some of the other titles headed our way.
Back when Tom Cruise made “Oblivion,” he was content to perform only mildly life-threatening stunts like riding motorcycles at full speed and sitting on the edge of a mountain peak in Iceland with an 800-foot drop. That and its relatively modest box office returns (it made $286.2 million on a $120 million budget) could also be the reason why the 2013 film doesn’t always get the love it deserves among the other projects Cruise has made in what you might call the “Get the shot or die trying” phase of his career.
Cruise stars in “Oblivion” as Jack Harper, the literal last man on Earth after the planet was devastated in a war with alien invaders that resulted in the rest of humanity relocating to one of Saturn’s moons (or so Jack believes — hint, hint). This was the first movie to pair Cruise with his “Top Gun: Maverick” director Joseph Kosinski, who originally developed the project as a comic book. While not without some flaws in the story department, “Oblivion” is as visually eloquent and confidently crafted as any other film Kosinski has made. It also serves as his love letter to touchstone sci-fi movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “THX-1138,” so much so that you can make a pretty fun game out of “Spot the homage!” while you watch it.
If Sherlock Holmes can get a half-million movies and TV shows, surely his sister Enola deserves a second film? The first “Enola Holmes” was set to be released theatrically by Warner Bros. before the pandemic led to Netflix picking up the movie instead. Arriving in the fall of 2020, the spirited teen girl detective romp was just the pick-me-up viewers needed and it did gangbusters viewership on the streaming service, enough so to earn a follow-up.
“Enola Holmes 2,” as the sequel is titled, finds Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) struggling to run her own detective-for-hire agency in ye olde London. However, just as she’s ready to close up shop, Enola lands a case that sees her unraveling a massive conspiracy with a little help from Sherlock (Henry Cavill, as hunky as ever). Director Harry Bradbeer and writer Jack Thorne are also back for Enola’s new adventure, so the hope is that they will succeed in recapturing the liveliness of the first “Enola Holmes” movie while at the same time digging deep into the political overtones of the sequel’s plot (itself inspired by fascinating real-life events).
Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon has produced some of the best animated films of the last two decades (see: “The Secret of Kells,” “Wolfwalkers”), on top of recently doing gorgeous background work on Mamoru Hosoda’s acclaimed animated movie “Belle.” That alone would be reason enough to keep an eye out for the studio’s latest project, “My Father’s Dragon.”
Adapted from the 1948 book of the same name by Ruth Stiles Gannett, “My Father’s Dragon” follows a young boy named Elmer Elevator (Jacob Tremblay) as he sets out in search of Wild Island, a magical place that brings him face to face with talking cats (Whoopi Goldberg), a dragon named Boris (Gaten Matarazzo), and other fantastical creatures on an adventure he never could have expected. Directed by Nora Twomey (“The Breadwinner”) and written by Meg LeFauve (“Inside Out”), the film has been earning top marks from critics on the festival circuit, with /Film’s Sarah Bea Milner praising its “charming hand-drawn aesthetic, the imaginative setting, and the myth-like narrative structure” in her review. Suffice it to say, animation buffs will definitely want to add this one to their watch list.
You would be forgiven if you missed out on watching “The Essex Serpent” when it arrived earlier this year (in fact, I would venture to say most people let it slip through the cracks). Creator Anna Symon’s Apple TV+ series is an engagingly Gothic tale of love, mystery, and intrigue that examines issues of faith vs. science. Why bring it up? Because the show seems to be getting a spiritual companion piece of sorts in the form of director Sebastián Lelio’s movie “The Wonder.”
Adapted from the 2016 novel of the same name by “Room” author Emma Donoghue (who also co-wrote its script), the film stars Florence Pugh as a 19th-century nurse who travels from England to Ireland to examine Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), a girl whose Catholic family claim she’s managed to stay alive and well without eating a single thing since turning 11 four months earlier. The movie has earned a fairly respectable reception from its festival screenings, with /Film’s Chris Evangelista declaring it “suitably haunting” if also “too light for its own good” in his review. Still, while it might not be making headlines the way a certain other Florence Pugh thriller did earlier this year, it sounds like “The Wonder’ is the superior of the pair.
Do we need an umpteenth “Addams Family” project? Of course we don’t. Has it been a while since “Wednesday” co-director and executive producer Tim Burton really hit one out of the park? For sure. But the trailer for “Smallville” creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar’s coming-of-age horror/comedy series made me chuckle when its namesake unleashes a bunch of piranhas on the bully who’d been tormenting her brother, and the mix of talent and premise for this one is enough to pique my interest.
Jenna Ortega, continuing a breakout year that’s already seen her co-star in “Scream” and “X,” headlines “Wednesday” as the titular Addams Family daughter, here re-imagined as a high schooler who solves mysteries, develops psychic powers, and battles monsters, all while maintaining her trademark deadpan manner, sullen expression, and love for all things spooky and macabre. Luis Guzmán, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Fred Armisen, and Gwendoline Christie are among those co-starring in the show, which certainly sounds like it’s trying to satirize American society in different and fresher ways than other recent “Addams Family” adaptations have. We shall see how that approach works for the series soon enough.
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The Noel Diary (2022)
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