Best movies to stream in November
At the start of each new month, the digital platforms are a hive of activity, with hundreds of movies added, subtracted and changing locations. Leigh Paatsch cuts through the blur and identifies 10 options sure to be beeping on most viewing radars …
THE RHYTHM SECTION (MA15+)
FOXTEL from Friday; coming soon to BINGE
This gripping and deceptively refreshing take on the action-revenge format was nursed along by the same mob behind the James Bond franchise. However, if you strike The Rhythm Section expecting slick spy high jinks, you will find yourself sorely mistaken. A superb Blake Lively (pictured above) stars as Stephanie Patrick, a former wife and mother who is now a sex worker and drug addict. The reason for her fall from grace? Her entire family was wiped out in an inexplicable plane crash. Make that formerly inexplicable. Once that Stephanie gets word the aviation disaster was deemed a permissible event by several governments and their intelligence agencies, she decides to even the score with everyone responsible for the sinister conspiracy. Stephanie's transformation from broken soul to angel of vengeance is a barely credible one, but it doesn't stop a well-cast Lively from having you believe in her character's desperate globetrotting crusade. Just the ticket for action fans who like it pulpy and punishing. Co-stars Jude Law.
Milla (Eliza Scanlen) is 16, and may not have too much time left to live. It will all come down to when a recurring bout of cancer next recurs. As for Moses (Toby Wallace), he is 23, and has way too much time on his hands. If he's not taking drugs, he could be selling them. She is no Juliet, and he certainly ain't no Romeo. Nevertheless, it is the incongruously gentle and sincere romance that takes hold between the pair that defines a fine Australian movie. Intelligently written and creatively directed, Babyteeth carefully avoids becoming the black comedy or the bleak drama it might have been. While events can amuse and move the viewer, the filmmakers are not afraid to venture into unpredictable territory. As great as Scanlen (last seen in the recent Hollywood adaptation of Little Women) and Wallace (a rapidly evolving talent) are in the lead roles, the glue that holds the whole thing together is the brilliant pairing of Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis as Milla's concerned, yet supportive parents. Great stuff, this.
Somehow, when nobody was looking, straight-to-streaming Christmas movies have suddenly become a big deal. Doesn't matter about the quality so much. The cheesier the better, in fact. These things magnetise eyeballs. Netflix's new entry into the race for season's-greetings supremacy is Holidate, a snarky rom-com which will definitely satisfy the so-bad-it's-good crowd. The title refers to a social practice wherein two people mutually agree to temporarily hook up for the holiday season to (a) avoid being alone; and (b) avoid being set up by family members with people you would never, ever date. Got all that? Good. The couple making such a cynical pact in Holidate go by the names of Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey). The pair (pictured) meets while returning gifts to the same store, bond over their hatred of Christmas, thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, and decide to do something about it. This is not the wittiest or funniest rom-com you'll ever see, but there is something keeping it in the watchable zone throughout.
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (MA15+)
As we know from comedy filmmaker Judd Apatow's biggest hits like Knocked Up and Trainwreck, he's not interested in wrapping up anything quick. So a 137-minute run time is an imposing challenge. Particularly for Australian viewers who may be unaware lead actor Pete Davidson (a major star on US TV via Saturday Night Live) is playing himself here. In an unconventional, unreliable and utterly charming work of autobiography, Davidson (inset) channels his "lost years" as a mentally ailing youth forever holding court (and inhaling weed) in the basement of his mother's house. The movie should be a self-indulgent chore, but never comes close, thanks to Davidson's charismatically awkward presence, and the colourfully committed performances of a great support cast led by Marisa Tomei and stand-up comedian Bill Burr.
BANKSY AND THE RISE OF OUTLAW ART (PG)
Out of a stack of documentaries about British guerrilla artist Banksy, this new one just might be the best yet. It does have the perfect, attention-grabbing start working in its favour: the simultaneous sale and shredding of the valuable Banksy painting Girl With a Balloon (pictured) during a Sotheby's art auction on 2018.
THE SECRET: DARE TO DREAM (PG)
A strangely static take on author Rhonda Byrne's self-help sensation of a book. Katie Holmes stars as Miranda (inset), a widowed mother of three who just can't catch a lucky break. Then along comes Bray (Josh Lucas), an unusually centred fella always ready with an upbeat pearl of wisdom and a can-do attitude.
THE CALL OF THE WILD (PG)
FOXTEL from Saturday; coming soon to BINGE
A family-friendly affair playing a pleasing game of go-fetch with your emotions. On the Yukon frontier, a clever, clumsy and loyal St Bernard and Scotch Shepherd mix is destined to become best-buds with a grouchy, but kind old prospector (played by a grouchy, but kind old Harrison Ford).
BINGE, FOXTEL, AMAZON
An interesting drama charting the downfall of former Fox News chief Roger Ailes (John Lithgow). The focus stays on three women whose experiences working for Ailes traced a fault line that would crack open #MeToo into a fully-fledged movement. Stars Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie (pictured below).
ON THE ROCKS (M)
A wonderful reunion for Bill Murray with his Lost in Translation collaborator, writer-director Sofia Coppola. He plays a wily art dealer who drifts in and out of the life of his cherished daughter (Rashida Jones) as he pleases. Murray and Jones form as vivid as a screen pairing as you'll catch right now.
THE 7 UP COLLECTION (PG)
SBS ON DEMAND
"Give me the child at seven, and I will show you the man." It was back in 1964 that English filmmaker Michael Apted first decided to test the meaning of this time-honoured phrase. Training his camera on the hopes, dreams and (often sobering) realities of a random group of 14 children, Apted embarked upon one of the bolder, yet most rewarding and fascinating experiments in cinema history. Every seven years since, he has revisited the group to check in on what life has thrown at them, and how they have responded. All episodes from this landmark project are now housed in the one place on SBS.
Originally published as Best movies to stream in November