Halloween has almost passed. I don’t know where society officially stands on this, but I’m pretty sure that means it’s safe to start watching Christmas movies! I don’t make the rules.
As far as your queue is concerned, if you’re looking to switch up your normal binge watch, we’ve got you covered. There’s a new, very 2020 Borat movie, a classic holiday switcharoo (featuring Vanessa Hudgens, of course), a 1960s courtroom drama, and a scream-worthy thriller for those not yet over ~spooky szn~. Check out what’s new on Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max below, as well as a few personal selections from the Ringer staff.
What’s New to Streaming in November
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
The Christmas Chronicles: Part 2 (Netflix, November 25)
Miles Surrey: The first Christmas Chronicles—or as I’d come to call it, the Hot Santa movie—felt like one long confirmation of Kurt Russell’s enduring sex appeal at age … 69. (You can’t make this stuff up.) His actual partner, Goldie Hawn, made a cameo at the end of the first film as Mrs. Claus, and it’s clear from the trailer that she’s a straight-up costar in this sequel. A full-on Christmas-themed blockbuster is one thing; that the movie is all to celebrate one of Hollywood’s most famous couples is iconic. If Wyatt Russell doesn’t show up as Santa’s son, I’m deducting a star from my future review.
The Blair Witch Project (Hulu, November 1)
Alyssa Bereznak: The Blair Witch Project’s principal photography cost a mere $35,000, but it went on to gross about $248.6 million at the box office—an indie film record at the time. Stylistically, cocreators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez conjured a new level of verisimilitude by embracing the equipment and amateur camerawork of the masses, spawning (or at least popularizing) the “found footage” horror subgenre. Promotionally, they extended their storytelling to both web forums and television “documentaries,” upgrading the concept of word of mouth to straight-up virality, and laying the groundwork for future internet folklore. As Adweek noted in 1999, the “little indie that could” left Hollywood “scrambling to figure out if guerrilla marketing on the Web is a blessing or a curse.” Out of nowhere, a troupe of University of Central Florida grads seized the reins of the internet and forged a new path for modern-day moviegoing.
Ocean’s Eleven (Netflix, November 1)
Andrew Gruttadaro: You could put peak George Clooney, peak Brad Pitt, peak Julia Roberts, Matt Damon [Takes deep breath.], Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, and Elliott Gould into anything and it’d be at least good. Put that group in a reboot of Ocean’s Eleven, the Rat Pack flick about a casino heist, and you’ve got a truly classic, eternally rewatchable movie.
More than 15 years later, Hollywood is jamming big-name stars into movies with more and more regularity, but they haven’t been able to recapture the magic of Ocean’s. Through Soderbergh’s lens, the caper movie about a guy who wants to rob the three most impregnable casinos in Las Vegas—mostly because the owner of those casinos is dating his ex-wife—is breezy, fast-paced fun with unbeatable banter. It’s The Avengers if The Avengers had better chemistry and a compelling villain. And it has a twist that actually lands and holds up. Plus, there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching a bunch of celebrities hang out and have fun together, which—when you strip away the bank vaults and poker chips—is what Ocean’s Eleven is all about. I’m going to go rewatch it for the thousandth time right now.
The Princess Switch: Switched Again (Netflix, November 19)
Surrey: What was once a festive spin on The Prince and the Pauper is now just the core material for a shameless exercise in sequel-making. Still, the first Princess Switch was admittedly delightful and corny as hell. It might not be A Christmas Prince, but since these films apparently exist in the same cinematic universe (!), I’m holding out hope for a Queen Amber cameo in Switched Again. The prospect of three Vanessa Hudgenses running around would’ve been a lot more appealing if the actress hadn’t been … uh … wildly irresponsible in March, broadcasting a denunciation of COVID-19 prevention measures. I’m deducting points for that. Nevertheless, this sequel is begrudgingly making the watch list.
Loving (Netflix, November 16)
Eric Ducker: Loving tells the story of the fortuitously named couple whose Supreme Court case made laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. Despite the seemingly straightforward premise, Jeff Nichols’s approach to the story doesn’t fit into the usual genre expectations. It lacks a message movie’s overwrought speeches that might bait academy voters, largely because the two main characters don’t seem to like talking much. It’s more spare than a legal drama, with the climactic courtroom arguments filmed with the camera trained on the back of the lawyers’ heads and the chief justices out of focus. It even breaks the usual arc of a love story—its first scene is of the soon-to-be Mildred Loving telling Richard Loving that she’s pregnant.
Some New-ish Things You Might’ve Missed
Because it’s hard to keep up with everything, here are a few things that have premiered somewhat recently that may be worth catching up on.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Prime)
Surrey: Borat was and remains an unassailable comedic triumph, timeless and endlessly quotable in equal measure. But Subsequent Moviefilm is a worthy sequel, and one made with a comparatively short shelf life in mind. If Borat is the type of film that will remain rewatchable for decades—I was so glad to have an excuse to revisit the movie this week; obviously it holds up—Subsequent Moviefilm is more akin to an election special. In his own unique and troll-y way, Sacha Baron Cohen is rebuking fascism, social media companies that spread misinformation like wildfire, and, toward the end of Borat and his daughter Tutar’s journey, the dangers of an administration ill-equipped to handle a pandemic. This won’t be a movie we’ll be keen to revisit in 10 or 20 years, but Cohen succeeded in making a Borat that could mean something in 2020. And for that alone, the sequel is a great success!
The Undoing (HBO Max)
Alison Herman: The Undoing is an obvious, unabashed echo of Big Little Lies, the blockbuster miniseries featuring Nicole Kidman as part of an ensemble cast that took Movie Star TV from budding curiosity to endlessly replicated business model. The parallels only multiply when you dig into the actual plot. Kidman and [Hugh] Grant play Grace and Jonathan Fraser, a wealthy and successful couple whose happy facade, if you can believe it, is not all it seems underneath. Their son attends a tony private school where a new, younger, less-well-off mom named Elena (Matilda De Angelis) earns the suspicion of the bitchy clique she disrupts. A pivotal scene in the pilot takes place at a fundraiser for said institution. The central plot devices, naturally, are a murder and the implied contrast between the polite social norms of the rarefied elite and the brutal violence that punctures their bubble.
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
Herman: Based on Walter Tevis’s novel from 1983, The Queen’s Gambit is another story of a female protagonist in a traditionally male space, albeit a more focused one. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon, a Kentucky orphan who turns out to be a chess prodigy when she comes across the game at age 9. In just a few years, Beth’s talent propels her to the insular yet high-flying world of international chess in the 1960s—though wherever she plays, her demons are never far behind.
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Surrey: With the right expectations, Bly Manor is a worthy follow-up to The Haunting of Hill House, with its investment in haunted characters—in more ways than one—to go with its haunted setting. The series doesn’t reach the highs of its predecessor, and is somewhat hamstrung by the lack of a singular creative vision without Mike Flanagan fully taking the reins behind the camera. But that should hardly be a deal breaker: I’d argue that the first six episodes of Hill House is the best television Netflix has ever made, full stop. The series was always going to be a tough act to follow. … Flanagan might not be a household name just yet, but he stands every chance of getting there. In the meantime, and in the spirit of his Netflix anthology series, Flanagan is more like one of the hidden ghosts of his haunted mansions: quietly impressing if you look hard enough.
The Good Lord Bird (Showtime)
Herman: Like the novel on which it’s based, The Good Lord Bird is told in the first person, the person in question being a young enslaved person named Henry Shackleford (Joshua Caleb Johnson). Caught in the crossfire between John Brown and a pro-slavery contingent in 1850s Missouri, Henry is orphaned, mistaken by Brown for a girl named Henrietta, and adopted into the ragtag abolitionist militia known as the Pottawatomie Rifles. (Think the merry band of thieves to Brown’s Robin Hood or, more recently, the Brotherhood Without Banners to Henry’s different sort of androgynous teen.) To celebrate Henry’s newfound freedom—though as a poor fugitive, Henry feels about as free as he does female—Brown gifts his new charge a dress made for his own daughter. Henry is nicknamed “Onion” after eating Brown’s longtime lucky charm and uses his gender expression like camouflage, tagging along on a journey through an America on the precipice of war.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Adam Nayman: The Trial of the Chicago 7 is the Aaron Sorkin–iest movie imaginable, a relentless roundelay of impassioned speeches and snide one-liners seen through 20/20 hindsight. Its subject is the sensational 1969 courtroom case that pitted an ideologically diverse cross-section of American leftists against government-appointed prosecutors determined to blame them for the violence that spilled out of the previous year’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago; the resulting mix of convictions and acquittals was less of a story than the trial itself, which was replete with grandstanding and showboating on both sides and featured flagrant abuse of power by the presiding judge, Julius Hoffman (impersonated with Oscar-baiting aplomb by Frank Langella). As its title suggests, the film is an ensemble piece, and while in truth only five of the eponymous septet are significant players in the film, that still leaves plenty of opportunity for a cast of voracious scenery chewers to chow down on Sorkin’s high-calorie dialogue.
Social Distance (Netflix)
Herman: Created by Orange Is the New Black writer Hilary Weisman Graham, executive produced by Jenji Kohan, and starring a cast that includes such Kohan-verse alumni as Danielle Brooks, Sunita Mani, and Tami Sagher, Social Distance is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of stories set during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, captured with an eclectic mix of recorded video calls, shared screens, home surveillance cameras, and even animation. It’s the most polished example yet of what might be called QuaranTV: entertainment produced under, and defined by, the constraints of an airborne virus without a vaccine. Social Distance arrives just in time to put the cherry on top of what’s already become a time capsule. More QuaranTV may still come, like the workplace comedy Remote that’s in development at CBS All Access. But as in-person production tentatively starts up again, shows like Social Distance and its peers are settling into what they were always designed to become: a strange, ingenious dispatch from a strange time that demands ingenuity.
A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path.
What to watch when you miss your rec soccer league: I was legitimately almost moved to tears—which seems like a silly thing to say—about a soccer show based on an ad campaign. But that’s the thing about Ted Lasso on Apple TV+: It has no right to be as good, as funny, as moving, or as heartwarming as it is. Yet Jason Sudeikis’s Ted is constantly welcoming, warm, and effervescent, and the show itself is the perfect TV companion as the weather gets colder and life turns into one long doomscroll. —Kellen Becoats
What to watch when you’re still not over Halloween: Just because it’s November and spooky season is over, doesn’t mean you can’t watch and appreciate Casper (1995), which comes to Netflix on November 1. If you haven’t seen the movie in 25-ish years, it’s a treasure trove of ’90s childhood relics. And if you have children now, you’ll enjoy introducing the Christina Ricci–helmed film by saying stuff like, “Can you believe this was the CGI back then?!” and “Before TikTok, we looked up to child actors—fascinating, right?!” —Amelia Wedemeyer
What to watch in anticipation of Netflix’s new holiday movies: Before you completely dive into this year’s slate of Netflix’s new and shiny Christmas content, you have to go back and relive some of last year’s gems. Most aren’t worthy of a rewatch, but The Knight Before Christmas might be. A medieval English knight (Josh Whitehouse) gets magically transported to today’s America. He falls in love with a small-town teacher and has limited time to express his true feelings before he gets zapped back to 1344. Come for Vanessa Hudgens’s acting chops (LOL) and stay for the incredible winter fits. Yes, the premise is a little cheesy, but who cares! It’ll get you in the mood for a season full of guessable plot lines and *chef’s kiss* one-liners, all for the sake of holiday cheer. —Jordan Ligons