Ten Films and TV Shows You Need to Stream in November 2020
Cancel your plans to get stuck into Andy Samberg's latest comedy, a new HBO miniseries set in Italy and a documentary about a horror masterpiece.
November 30, 2020
Not all that long ago, the idea of getting cosy on your couch, clicking a few buttons, and having thousands of films and television shows at your fingertips seemed like something out of science fiction. Now, it's just an ordinary night — whether you're virtually gathering the gang to text along, cuddling up to your significant other or shutting the world out for some much needed me-time.
Of course, given the wealth of options to choose from, there's nothing ordinary about making a date with your chosen streaming platform. The question isn't "should I watch something?" — it's "what on earth should I choose?". Hundreds of titles are added to Australia's online viewing services each and every month, all vying for a spot on your must-see list. And, so you don't spend 45 minutes scrolling and then being too tired to actually commit to watching anything, we're here to help. From the latest and greatest to old favourites, here are our picks for your streaming queue from November.
NEW STUFF TO WATCH NOW
It wasn't the first movie to play with temporal trickery; however, Groundhog Day has a lot to answer for. Films about folks stuck in a loop, repeating the same day or events over and over, now almost comprise their own genre — but, wearing its allegiance to the aforementioned Bill Murray-starring comedy on its sleeves, Palm Springs is one of the best of them. Here, Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Andy Samberg plays Nyles, who has ventured to the titular location with his girlfriend Misty (Meredith Hagner, Brightburn) to attend a friend's nuptials. He gets drunk, makes a speech and a scene, befriends fellow wedding guest Sarah (Cristin Milioti, Modern Love) and disappears into a cave, warning the latter not to follow. When dawn breaks, it's the same day again. Then variations on the same events happen once more, and they just keep repeating over and over. Also featuring an initially intense JK Simmons (21 Bridges) as another ceremony attendee, Palm Springs has a wealth of fun with its concept, and becomes one of the year's most enjoyable movies in the process. Produced by Samberg alongside his Lonely Island colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, directed by feature first-timer Max Barbakow and written by Lodge 49's Andy Siara, it also finds its own way to grapple with the time-loop genre's usual elements — the repetition that feels like being stuck in purgatory, and the existential malaise that comes with it — in a smart and funny rom-com that boasts particularly great performances from Samberg and Milioti.
Palm Springs is available to stream via Amazon Prime Video.
WE ARE WHO WE ARE
Two on-screen tales about American teenagers in Italy. Two floppy-haired male leads oozing with uncertainty and yearning. One filmmaker. After Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino returns to familiar territory with HBO miniseries We Are Who We Are — and if its star Jack Dylan Grazer reminds you of the now ultra-famous Timothée Chalamet, that's completely unsurprising; in 2018's Beautiful Boy (not directed by Guadagnino), the former even played a younger version of the latter's character. But don't go mistaking Guadagnino's eight-part TV show for a mere or lazy rehash of the director's past work. Following two neighbouring 14-year-olds who live on a US army base with their enlisted parents, including Grazer's newly arrived loner, We Are Who We Are once again taps into universal themes about finding one's own identity and place in the world, and navigating affairs of the heart as well, but it definitely has its own story to tell. Also starring first-timer Jordan Kristine Seamón, plus Chloë Sevigny (Queen & Slim), Alice Braga (The New Mutants), Scott Mescudi (aka Bill & Ted Face the Music's Kid Cudi), Francesca Scorsese (daughter of iconic filmmaker Martin Scorsese) and Tom Mercier (Synonyms), this patient yet involving series once again boasts Guadagnino's eye for gorgeous and revealing imagery, though, with every intoxicating shot (and every camera angle and placement used for each shot) luring viewers in.
We Are Who We Are is available to stream via SBS On Demand.
AUNTY DONNA'S BIG OL' HOUSE OF FUN
2019's I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson was the best sketch comedy of that year. In 2020, the equivalent title goes to Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun. If you're familiar with Australian comedy troupe Aunty Donna, then you'll know what to expect. Writers and performers Mark Samual Bonanno, Broden Kelly and Zachary Ruane, director and writer Sam Lingham, filmmaker Max Miller and composer Tom Armstrong have been treating audiences to absurdist gags, satire, wordplay and songs since forming in 2011 — but now the group has channelled all of its silliness and surreal gags, and its astute ability to make fun of daily life in a smart yet ridiculous way, into a six-part Netflix series. Bonanno, Kelly and Ruane star as themselves, and housemates. Each episode revolves around a theme, starting with the search for a fourth member of their household when they decide to turf their annoying talking dishwasher (voiced by Flight of the Conchords' Kristen Schaal). There's nothing too over-the-top for Aunty Donna, or too trivial, including treasure hunts, an out-there recreation of Ellen DeGeneres' talk show, a pitch-perfect takedown of trendy barber shops to a parody of male posturing when the guys turn their house into a bar. And there's little on offer in the extremely binge-able show that doesn't deliver just the dose of side-splitting absurdity that this hectic year needs.
LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST
First, a word to the wise: if you haven't already seen The Exorcist, you'll want to give it a whirl before checking out this new Shudder documentary. And even if you've watched the iconic horror movie so many times that you've memorised every crucifix and spinning head, revisiting it is never a bad idea; this in-depth examination of the 1973 hit by the filmmaker behind it will certainly make you want to as soon as possible. Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist is as straightforward as its title intimates. For the movie's 104-minute running time, the director also responsible for The French Connection, Sorcerer and Killer Joe chats through the feature he's best known for, explaining both behind-the-scenes and on-screen details. Expect an insight into the battles to even get The Exorcist to the screen, anecdotes about the quest to find the exact right stars for this unsettling tale of demon possession and insider recollections about the now-85-year-old Friedkin's wide-ranging career in general. Indeed, it's impressive just how wide a range of topics and themes this doco covers, proving absolute catnip for cinephiles. Leap of Faith's own filmmaker Alexandre O Philippe is known for diving deep into great screen works, as seen in 78/52 (about Psycho) and Memory: The Origins of Alien (about, well, Alien), after all.
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist is available to stream via Shudder.
GANGS OF LONDON
When crime kingpin Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney, Seberg) is killed unexpectedly after a 20-year reign over London's illicit dealings, the city's underworld is forced to react. The first order of business: find out who ordered the assassination, which is Finn's brooding, grieving and quick-to-react son Sean's (Joe Cole, One of These Days) only priority, and one he's determined to pursue at any cost. At first, it seems as if Gangs of London's nine-episode debut season is simply charting familiar territory — because many a movie and TV show about mobsters has focused on shock hits, succession scrambles and bloody fights over turf. But this British series has a particular strength that none of its genre compatriots can boast, aka filmmaker Gareth Evans. He's the director behind The Raid and its 2014 sequel The Raid 2: Berandal. If you've seen those two movies, that should be all you need to know. Here, Evans' penchant for balletic brutality and exquisitely shot and choreographed action scenes is on full display once again. He doesn't just rely upon intense, ultra-violent fights to keep viewers interested in this contemporary-set gang epic, though, plotting out an intricate world filled with meaningful, memorable and menacing characters (and just as impressive performances).
Gangs of London's first season is available to stream via Stan.
THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT
In much of The Queen's Gambit, Beth Harmon sits at a chessboard. As a child (Isla Johnston), she demands that orphanage janitor Mr Shaibel (Bill Camp, The Outsider) teach her the game. As a teenager (Anya Taylor-Joy, Radioactive), she earns a reputation as a chess prodigy. As her confidence and fame grows, she demonstrates her prowess at tournaments around America and the globe, while also spending her spare time hunched over knights, rooks, bishops and pawns studying moves and tactics. None of the above sounds like innately thrilling television unless you're a chess grandmaster, but this seven-part miniseries proves that you should never judge a show by its brief description. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, written and directed by Oscar-nominee Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Logan), and dripping with lavish 50s and 60s decor and costuming to reflect its period setting, The Queen's Gambit doesn't expect that all its viewers will be chess aficionados; however, it's made with a canny awareness that anything can be tense, suspenseful and involving — and that every different type of game there is says much about its players and devotees. The series doesn't lack in creative and inventive ways to depict chess on-screen. It knows when to hang on every single move of a pivotal game, and when to focus on the bigger story surrounding a particular match or Beth path through the chess world in general. And it's especially astute at illustrating how a pastime based on precision and strategy offers an orphaned girl a way to control one lone aspect of her tumultuous and constantly changing life.
FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS
Werner Herzog could make a documentary about absolutely any topic and, as long as the great filmmaker narrated it himself in his inimitable tones and with his lyrical, observational prose, it'd be worth checking out. As his on-screen acting roles in the likes of Jack Reacher, Parks and Recreation and The Mandalorian have shown, listening to his voice is one of life's purest joys — and, in Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds, he spends his time talking about a riveting topic. Reuniting with University of Cambridge professor Clive Oppenheimer, who he worked with on the volcano-focused Into the Inferno, Herzog turns his attention to meteors. As well as searching for sites where they've fallen from the sky and made a literal impact, his new doco surveys experts from around the world, explores meteors in both ancient and recent times, and looks at the subject from a scientific, historical, archaeological and anthropological basis as well. From the Norwegian jazz musician who collects micrometeorites to the way that rocks descending from the heavens have played a part in Indigenous Australian culture, Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds is never anything less than fascinating. And, it also sees Herzog describe one part of the globe as "so godforsaken it makes you want to cry", which just might be one of his best turns of phrase yet.
Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds is available to stream via Apple TV+.
Stories about fleeing persecution are innately horrifying, but His House makes viewers confront the scenario in a visceral and purposefully confronting way. That's what happens when you pair an unsettling real-world situation that's distressingly common with the horror genre — using the latter to augment and emphasise the terror of the former, as His House does commandingly. The first feature from writer/director Remi Weekes, this British-set movie follows Bol (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, the aforementioned Gangs of London) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku, Lovecraft Country) from war-torn South Sudan, across the Mediterranean by boat, into detention in the UK and finally to a home on the edge of London. They're thrilled to have made the journey safely, albeit at a significant personal cost that neither can shake, and they're initially excited to have a place to call their own. But, after their case worker Mark (Matt Smith, Official Secrets) gives them the keys, the couple's new abode turns into a nightmare. It doesn't help that Bol is certain that they need to farewell everything about their own culture to show the government that they deserve to stay, while Rial is rightly resistant to that idea. The pair are quite literally haunted, though, as Weekes manifests in eerie detail in a movie that cleverly and compellingly (and creepily, too) interrogates the refugee experience.
His House is available to stream via Netflix.
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN
Never let anyone tell you that SpongeBob SquarePants is just for kids. The long-running show about the absorbent, yellow and porous sea critter has always proved otherwise, but his big-screen adventures wholeheartedly make the case — because when you have Keanu Reeves playing a talking sage tumbleweed that's also a sage that dispenses wisdom, that pitch-perfect piece of casting is 100-percent aimed at adults. Yes, that's something that happens in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and more often than you might expect. Yes, it's delightful. There are more surreal and absurd gags where that came from, too, which has always been SpongeBob's appeal for older viewers. Story-wise, the movie — SpongeBob's third, after 2004's The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and 2015's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water — sees everyone's favourite Bikini Bottom resident leave his pineapple under the sea in search of his kidnapped pet snail Gary, with the vain King Poseidon (as voiced by What We Do in the Shadows star and Sponge Out of Water alum Matt Berry) the culprit. It's silly, it's sweet, it's chaotic and, although the flashbacks to SpongeBob's childhood are just a blatant way to promote a new TV spinoff, it's supremely entertaining.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run is available to stream via Netflix.
CULT CLASSICS TO REVISIT AND REDISCOVER
THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR
Add this show about a west Philadelphia teen's life-changing move to Los Angeles to the list of classic series making a comeback in 2020. The Will Smith-starring sitcom hasn't returned in the proper sense. It is actually getting a reboot, in a darker, more dramatic form, because everything old is new again, but that was just announced a few months back and hasn't arrived just yet. Still, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's surviving original cast members have all come together for a brand new reunion special — which Stan now has available to stream alongside each and every one of the 148 episodes that initially aired between 1990–96. Accordingly, if you'd like to while away more than a few hours, days and weeks seeing where Smith's on-screen career kicked off, laughing at The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's fish-out-of-water premise and feeling mighty nostalgic for times gone by, now you can. You'll obviously be treated to a hefty array of 90s fashions, because that comes with the territory. And, you'll be certain to get the series' famed theme tune stuck in your head (if you haven't already while reading this paragraph, that is).
Every season of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is available to stream via Stan.
Top images: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, Paramount Animation; The Queen's Gambit, Phil Bray/Netflix; His House, Aidan Monaghan/Netflix.
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