Best Movies on Netflix, November 2016

Another month, another list of movies that are coming out of the Netflix catalog and a list of movies that are being added for our viewing pleasure. But, as always, what’s really worth your time? That’s where I come in!

First off, here are a few movies you should have watched before they vanished: Deliverance (somewhat hard to watch, but a brilliantly assembled buddy film that invented some of our modern “city guys in the woods” tropes), Equilibrium (in a future where all forms of feelings are illegal…), Fatal Attraction (best. stalker. film. ever), Into the Wild (boy gives everything away to live in wild Alaska. Bear shows up), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (it’s really the technical backstory of this film that’s so fascinating, but that’s the subject of a different blog post), Spy Game (brilliant Robert Redford thriller), The American (another solid, albeit more art-house spy thriller), Boxtrolls (witty, engaging and innovative stop-motion). What I don’t think is a loss is the removal of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. I know, I know, you love it. Everyone loves it. I don’t. C’est la vie.

Okay, so you missed those. Now, what’s coming that should get into your queue?

The African Queen (1951)

The African Queen (1951) Directed by John Huston Shown from left: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn
Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn from “The African Queen”

The screen lights up with two of the best actors from the era as strait-laced missionary Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) persuades gin-swilling riverboat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) to attack an enemy ship with his little boat. The setting is Africa and it’s WWI, but all of that is irrelevant as you sit back and enjoy the sparkling dialog and wonderful sparks between two of the Hollywood greats. Just such a fun film, don’t miss it while it’s on Netflix.

Alfie (2004)

Jude Law, from "Alfie"
Jude Law, from “Alfie”

This is somewhat of a tepid remake of a wonderful 1966 movie with Michael Caine in the title role. Netflix hasn’t specified which version it’ll be releasing, but my guess is the 2004 version of Alfie. It stars a perfectly acceptable Jude Law reprising Caine’s role as a happy-go-lucky Cockney playboy who is always on the make with the ladies and as irresponsible as he can manage. Until the tables are turned. Co-starring Renée Taylor as his lust, then love interest Lu Schnitman. It’s worth noting that the 1966 version captures the energy of swinging London that’s the heart of the Austin Powers movies. The 2004 version? Not so much. Still, Law is charming and the constant voice-over musings might offer viewers a wry insight into the male psyche.

Cujo (1983)

cujo movie publicity still photo
Angry Dog! from “Cujo”

Rabid dog trying to kill and eat people. From a novel by Stephen King. Do I need to say more? Well, the dog is a cute St. Bernard and the film’s as much about how people in a rural community come together against a common foe (a very common King theme). It’s the only halfway decent horror film on the Netflix docket for November, and it’s possible that all the good ones came out in October for Halloween. Still, cute, rabid dog…

The Jungle Book (2016)

Mowgli and Baloo, from "The Jungle Book"
Mowgli and Baloo, from “The Jungle Book”

A live + animation hybrid that is a showcase for modern computer animation, the film takes a relatively benign story about a young orphan raised by African jungle animals and makes it much more visceral. This live action version garnered lots of fans and is certainly a vibrant and exciting retelling of a tale about a boy who has to choose between nature and nurture, I also found it possibly too intense for younger children and missed the sly humor of the original Disney animated version. Starring Neel Sethi as Mowgli.

Paddington (2014)

paddington movie photo still
That darn bear, from “Paddington”

There’s not much story here, and the opening is rather distressing for little ones as lovable Peruvian orphan bear Paddington’s Uncle is killed and Aunty then heads to an old age home, telling the little bear to head to London and find a family that’ll adopt him. But once you get past that rather downer opening, the sheer energy of this family film and innovative mixed CG effects keep the film moving forward pellmell and with lots of laughs. Listen closely too: Paddington’s voice is supplied by rising star Ben Whishaw.

Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia (1943)

Troops disembarking, from Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia
Troops disembarking, from “Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia”

Historians and other film fans will enjoy the historic Why We Fight series. Commissioned by the US Army during World War II, each of the seven documentary films was assembled by a famous Hollywood director and featured animated sequences from Disney Studios. The Battle of Russia was directed by Frank Capra and has lots of contemporaneous history of our then-ally Russia, along with details of the brutal Leningrad and Moscow battles against the Nazi Third Reich. As you watch this, keep in mind that it mad as a propaganda film for American servicemen to watch while in the trenches in the War.

Other films in this series worth watching are Prelude to War (1942) which includes the Japanese conquest of Manchuria and Italian conquest of Ethiopia (remember, the Axis powers were Germany, Japan and Italy), Divide and Conquer (1943) about the fall of France to the Nazi army, The Battle of Britain (1943) about the amazing British victory against the Luftwaffe, and War Comes to America (1945), which explores the evolution of American sympathy from isolationism to full participation in WWII.

That’s it. Really there’s not much in the pipeline from Netflix for November. Perhaps they’re holding off and will release lots of great movies in December. We can only hope…

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