Header images courtesy of Netflix and IMDb
As the holiday season comes up, Netflix has something for everyone, including holiday rom-coms, Oscar-bait films, and true-crime series about grisly murders. A Christmas miracle! Paul Hsiao, chart maker and film enthusiast at Movieconomist, lists his most-anticipated releases arriving on Netflix Hong Kong this December.
Probably the most meta film on this list, this documentary—part of the ...That Made Us series—goes behind the scenes of two iconic Christmas films: Elf, starring Will Ferrell, and Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s animated stop-motion film, The Nightmare Before Christmas. See what went into the development and release of these Christmas classics. Available 1 December
Like this? Consider Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, another documentary that goes behind the scenes of beloved children’s television show icon, Mr Rogers.
Not to be confused by the 2014 thriller starring Cousin Matthew himself, Dan Stevens, The Guest is... also a thriller. But that’s where the similarities end as the new Netflix addition is a popular supernatural Korean television series starring Kim Dong-wook, Jung Eun-chae, and Kim Jae-woon, where a Catholic priest and a detective team up to battle ghosts. Available 1 December
Like this? Try the genre-mashing Warrior Nun.
The latest film from David Fincher, director of Fight Club and The Social Network, stars Oscar-winning Gary Oldman as Herman “Mank” Mankiewisz, the screenwriter behind Citizen Kane, arguably the most influential film of all time, as he battles his personal demons and races against time to finish the epic screenplay. Shot in black-and-white and starring an A-list cast, including the aforementioned Gary Oldman, Lily Collins, and Amanda Seyfriend, Mank is surely to be a contender at the Academy Awards in a couple of months and is on my must-watch list in December. Available 4 December
Like this? Consider Netflix’s other black-and-white award-bait film from 2018, Roma.
How are you supposed to act when a life literally is held between your hands? Netflix partnered with BBC in a documentary that captures the trials and successes of four surgeons as they reflect on the most meaningful experiences of their career. Available 9 December
Like this? Consider The Social Dilemma, a documentary about the rise of social media.
When high school slacker Arisu (like “Alice”) wishes for a more exciting life, he finds himself transported to an alternate version of Tokyo called Borderland, where he has to battle rival factions by surviving card-themed challenges. Thankfully, he is teamed up with the mysterious Usagi (Japanese for “rabbit,” extremely subtle), who also guides him through this new world. For those of us not traveling this year, this may be the closest we get to seeing a psychedelic version of Tokyo. Available 10 December
Like this? Consider The 100, a sci-fi series that deals with survival on Earth after it was devastated by a nuclear apocalypse.
With New York’s Broadway musical theatre district and high schools around the world closed down thanks to the coronavirus, Netflix is doing its darnedest to bring musicals about high schools to the small screen with The Prom (I feel like there would be an “!” after the title, like Jeopardy!). The film stars heavy hitters like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, and James Corden, no doubt ready to shed the memory (allll aloooone in the mooonliiighhht) of his last musical flop, Cats. Based on the musical of the same name, The Prom’s plot revolves around two broadway stars, Streep and Corden, who rally to help a small-town female high school student attend prom with her girlfriend. Available 11 December
It’s honestly amazing what Netflix has done with the feel-good Christmas genre with films like A Christmas Prince, Let It Snow, The Knight Before Christmas, A Christmas Inheritance, A Holiday In the Wild… ad infinitum. The latest addition, A California Christmas, centres around a young and successful businessman (you probably don’t need to know more than that) named Joseph who finds himself distanced from his fast-moving corporate lifestyle at a salt-of-the-earth ranch staffed by a hottie named Callie (“Callie” from Cali? C’mon!). Hilarity, romance, and wholesome Christian—I mean Christmas—values ensue. Available 14 December
Like this? Consider The Holiday, a classic “switcheroo” romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Jack Black (as a romantic lead!), Jude Law, and Kate Winslet.
In what ostensibly is the spiritual successor the early-2000s romantic comedy What Women Want where Mel Gibson is granted the power to read women’s minds, Taraj P. Henderson, of Empire fame, stars as a high-powered sports agent who finds herself with the ability to read the minds of men. Also co-starring athletes like Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill, and Lisa Leslie, the film is a breezy romp in a pre-Covid America. Available 15 December
Like this? Consider Bridesmaids, an SNL-alum filled comedy about female friendship.
Netflix’s latest entry into the true-crime docu-series may be our new obsession over the holiday season. The Ripper is centred around UK authorities in the 1970s and 1980s who were racing against the clock to stop the next murder from a modern-day Jack the Ripper. Available 16 December
Like this? Consider Unexplained Mysteries, another Netflix true-crime show.
In a beautifully realised 1927 Chicago, real-life jazz singer Ma Rainey, played by an unrecognisable Viola Davis, shoots to stardom while battling her restrictive white management. The film is based on the award-winning Broadway play and also stars Chadwick Boseman, King T’Challa himself, in one of his last performances. Available 18 December
Like this? Consider Pose, an unorthodox retelling of 1980s New York City.
It might not be Mid-Autumn Festival anymore, but this beautiful animated feature deserves a mention nonetheless. From a monumental partnership between Netflix Animation, Pearl Studio, and Sony Pictures comes Over the Moon, a musical adventure fantasy film directed by Glen Keane (who is famous for his work on all of your favourite Disney animations, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Tangled). In the film, Fei Fei (voiced by newcomer Cathy Ang) is determined to prove the existence of Chang’e, a mythical goddess on the moon, and she builds a rocket ship to go meet her.
Like this? Consider Spirited Away, which will take you on a similarly fantastical journey with a strong female lead.
The hit South Korean series is finally arriving on Netflix! Perplexed by new evidence about a five-year-old crime, two rival detectives partner up to uncover the truth. Son Hyun-joo plays a veteran police detective whose empirical detective methods comes at odds with Jang Seung-jo’s rival policeman who frequently uses psychology to solve crimes.
Like this? Consider Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the irreverent police comedy led by SNL alum Andy Samberg.
Clearly capitalising on the sweet success of To all the Boys I Loved Before, Dash & Lily is a new rom-com offering from the streaming giant. Based on a young-adult book series written by David Levithan and Rachel Cohen—the minds behind Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist—Dash & Lily stars an Asian-American lead (hooray!) and the first season follows Dash, who finds a secret list of dares in a red notebook found in a historic New York City bookstore.
Like this? Well, I mentioned To All the Boys I Loved Before. Similarly, the also saccharine Let it Snow, which was released last year (oh, pre-Covid times), is also a perfect companion piece if Dash & Lily appeals to you.
World War II as… as a serious animated feature? That’s what the creatives behind The Liberator are hanging their hat on. Based on true events, the film follows captain Felix Sparks and his band of merry soldiers as they traverse through a war-torn Europe and the men fight through beaches and snowy terrain. Certainly a novel take on history’s grisliest modern war.
Like this? Consider Defiance, a Daniel Craig-led film depicting Jewish resistance fighters during the Second World War.
As parents and teachers worldwide struggle to educate their kids from home, Netflix is doing its part by releasing the fourth season of The Crown, which provides an entertaining history lesson on the British monarchy from 1977 to 1990. This new season marks Olivia Coleman’s final performance as Queen Elizabeth II and also promises towering performances from Gillian Anderson (of X-Files fame) playing Margaret Thatcher, as well as the debut of Emma Corrin as Lady Diana Spencer.
Like this? Consider The West Wing, another political drama, which depicts the fictionalised presidency of Jed Bartlet, an articulate and deeply moral president.
So that’s what Dwight Shrute has been doing after his days in The Office. Rainn Wilson produces and narrates the new and unusual competition reality series where contests participate in games like “cheese rolling, chilli eating, fantasy hairstyling, yo-yo, dog dancing, and frog dancing”—to name but a few. A show for the folks who were not chosen for The Bachelor franchise.
Like this? Consider The Circle, a Netflix-produced reality series that seeks to strip away the façade of reality television.
Do we really need a Shawn Mendes documentary in the world (especially that one features a gratuitous shower shot)? Millions of fans worldwide scream a resounding “yes.” As concerts and live music continue to be cancelled worldwide due to the pandemic, Shawn Mendes: In Wonder could provide that energetic behind-the-scenes look at the life and times of the worldwide phenomenon that is Shawn Mendes (am I a bit sarcastic? Maybe).
Like this? Consider What Happened, Miss Simone?, a historic musical documentary on the life and times of jazz singer Nina Simone.
Can somebody say Oscar? This new Netflix offering features all of the hallmarks of an “awards-season film.” Established director in the form of Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13)—check. Tour-de-force performances from heavyweights like Glenn Close and Amy Adams—check. Based on a best-selling book—check. Tackles social issues—check. Starring white people—check (too soon?). In any case, Hillbilly Elegy will be the latest example of Netflix foraying into awards season with a searing depiction of generational white poverty in America. Supported by his grandmother (played by an unrecognisable Glenn Close), J.D. Vance, a twenty-something man in Appalachia, struggles to make it under the domineering presence of his mother (played by Amy Adams).
Like this? Consider Good Time, a stylish Robert Pattinson-led urban crime thriller that has been overlooked by the Academy Awards.
Produced by Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo, Mosul brings to life the desperate fight for survival a SWAT team underwent against ISIS in Iraq during the most dangerous period of the post-“Mission Accomplished” era. Inspired by Luke Mogelson’s New Yorker article, “The Desperate Battle to Destroy ISIS,” the feature initially made its film festival debut last year, but its theatrical release was delayed until now.
Like this? Consider Enemy At the Gates, another true-life war narrative starring Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ed Harris, and Joseph Fiennes, depicting the battle between two Russian and German snipers sat the height of the Second World War.