New Movies on Netflix

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New Movies on Netflix

Netflix has been adding so many new movies to its menu of offerings that it can be tough to keep up with all of their latest films. The following list includes 15 of the biggest movies the streaming service has released in the last two months.

Some we recommend more than others, but we’ve listed them all in order of release date, starting with the newest movies on Netflix. We’ll update this as Netflix continues to add new original films to the streaming service.

1. How I Fell in Love with a Gangster

how-i-fell-gangster.jpg Netflix Release Date: Jan. 12, 2022
Director: Maciej Kawulski
Stars: Tomasz Wlosok, Antoni Królikowski, Agnieszka Grochowska, Magdalena Lamparska, Krystyna Janda, Klaudiusz Kaufmann, Eryk Lubos, Sebastian Fabijanski
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 179 minutes
Paste Review Score: 7.1

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Nothing quite says “this is going to be an epic, grisly, relentless roller-coaster of a gangster movie” like an opening scene that shows a woman lying in a bathtub filled with blood while “Big in Japan” croons on in the background. That’s how we meet How I Fell in Love With a Gangster, director Maciej Kawulski’s sprawling chronicle of the rise and fall of real-life Polish gangster Nikodem “Nikos” Skotarczak. And, like its opening scene promises, the film certainly isn’t here to play. For the duration of its three-hour runtime, it lives up to the initial “Big in Japan” energy: An almost constant flashy soundtrack convulses between garish Eastern European techno club beats and white-hot classic rock hits; an impossibly cool look tints smooth camerawork with frosty blues; and theatrical performances grab your attention. Gangster starts when Nikos (Tomasz Wlosok) is just a little kid, about to experience his life-altering, Henry Hill-esque “I’ve always wanted to be a gangster” moment. After watching a man exchange currency to con people, Nikos realizes that his true passion lies in hustling. The rest is history. As a teenager, he gets involved in similar, small-scale swindles, until, as an adult, he builds an empire and becomes one of the most menacing names in Europe, stealing German cars and selling them in Poland. Skotarczak’s story is, by all accounts, a captivating one. Not a lot about Gangster’s plot is especially groundbreaking, which, in itself, isn’t inherently problematic. Nikos is a player, and goes through a number of sexual partners, ones which, in the style of a good Scorsese film, go up in flames in an explosive manner (often with threats of violence from a woman scorned). There are also no shortages of car-jacking montages or I-absolutely-saw-that-coming betrayals. So Kawulski tries to spice Gangster up with flashy style, and spice things up he does…but this particular spice only ends up making the film feel that much more derivative. The roadmap to the flashy gangster flick is a tried-and-true formula, and Nikos’ life lives up to the flair. But if you’re looking to fall in love with a film that delivers nuance and surprise, you’d be best served looking elsewhere. —Aurora Amidon

2. Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui

chnadigarh.jpg Netflix Release Date: Jan. 7, 2022 (Originally released Dec. 10, 2021)
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Stars: Ayushmann Khurrana, Vaani Kapoor
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 115 minutes

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Hindi cinema is taking slow steps in creating narratives around the LGBTQ+ community, which can be seen as a step towards inclusion. You could call Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui another one of those steps, despite the many problems it presents. Manu (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a beefed-up gym owner, with a bunch of gym rat friends and a meddlesome family. One day, Zumba instructor Manvi (Vaani Kapoor) saunters into his gym and life. Sparks fly, things get hot and heavy real fast. Except, Manvi is a trans woman, who has had sex reassignment surgery. This revelation has Manu go through a series of crises, while educating the audience about the challenges that Manvi has had to face. There are several issues to raise about Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui: Kapoor is a cis actor playing a trans character; while the movie show some awareness of trans issues, there are also several cringeworthy moments serving stereotypical ideas about queer identity; and, in the end, the movie uses Manvi’s story for Manu’s personal growth. As far as queer representation in Hindi movies go, it would be great to see more movies in the future where queer characters can simply exist, and not require their identity to drive the plot. —Aparita Bhandari

3. The Lost Daughter

the-lost-daughter-poster.jpg Netflix Release Date: Jan. 1, 2022
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Stars: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Dagmara Dominczyk, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes
Paste Review Score: 8.8

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On the beach that comparative literature scholar Leda (Olivia Colman) lounges on throughout The Lost Daughter, the skies are a crystal blue, the beaches a shimmering white, the water warm and translucent. But the shore is also infested with crass, noisy people; Leda’s fruit infected by a malignant rot; her bedroom contaminated with screeching bugs; a little girl’s doll corrupted by noxious black liquid and writhing insects. This tonal tension is symptomatic of the film’s spirit: It’s a glossy apple, rapidly decaying from the inside out. The film takes place over a couple of days as Leda settles into a lavish working vacation. Her relaxation is interrupted, however, when she first lays eyes on Nina (Dakota Johnson), a beautiful, inscrutable young mother. Leda becomes obsessed with Nina, as the latter inadvertently resurfaces troubling memories of Leda’s own distressing experiences as a mother. From that moment onward, Leda’s haunting memories permeate The Lost Daughter until the apple is completely black. While the narrative itself, adapted from Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name, is relatively straightforward, debut director Maggie Gyllenhaal, who also wrote the screenplay, tackles themes of internalized and externalized sexism with agility and complexity. Leda’s subtle, complex mental state would not have been possible to convey were it not for Gyllenhaal’s outstanding visual sensibilities. Leda’s struggles are largely internal, but I’m confident that Gyllenhaal’s uniquely tactile storytelling says a great deal more than words ever could. When Leda caresses Elena’s grimy doll, her touch is gentle and somehow filled with regret. When she slides a pin into Nina’s hat, it sounds sinister like a sword being unsheathed, but her careful placement is almost sensual. And when a younger Leda slices the flesh of an orange, her smooth, tactful carving almost feels ominous. Gyllenhaal’s extraordinary direction, paired with exceptional performances from The Lost Daughter’s lead actresses, culminate in a perfect storm that yields an astute portrait of the painful expectations of womanhood. —Aurora Amidon

4. Don’t Look up

dont-look-up.jpg Netflix Release Date: Dec. 24, 2021
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes
Paste Review Score: 4.5

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In 2021, there are more reasons than one might have been previously comfortable with for legitimately fretting about the end of the world. And while the downfall of humankind likely won’t be coming as expediently as an extinction-level threat heading on a crash course for Earth, director Adam McKay’s new doomsday comedy/“timely” political satire Don’t Look Up attempts to congeal populism and the pandemic and climate change and all that which causes us to recoil against the unknowable future into one immediate, planet-killing orb. If that seems like a better and quicker way for us to go out in retrospect, McKay doesn’t make the path towards potential desolation easy. He plays out scenarios that, now, come across less like Idiocracy and more like genuine, scientific hypothesizing about how our world would react to the knowledge that we have six months left to live. Businessmen and politicians would attempt to financially leverage the situation at the cost of human lives; brainless hashtags would proliferate on social media; half the population would believe it to be a hoax; and the people who broke the story would be branded as cranks…to some extent. So, who better to articulate this existential dread at large than resident Hollywood goofball comedy director-turned-political theorist McKay, in his first wholly fictionalized film since Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? The result is a star-studded Netflix affair. The film isn’t bad; it’s just boring, and long. There is no reason that a comedy—even a purported “prestige” one—needs to run 145 minutes (though I have a feeling that Judd Apatow would beg to differ). I can imagine an alternate universe where Don’t Look Up was a sharper affair, if not a better one, trimmed down to two hours, or even a scant 100 minutes, which would alleviate the weight of the burdensome political satire and, perhaps, even the long-winded non-jokes. As is, Don’t Look Up is an exhausting and meandering “What if? But also, what now?” If the world really is going to end in my lifetime, these were 145 minutes that I’m never getting back. —Brianna Zigler

5. The Hand of God

the-hand-of-god-poster.jpg Netflix Release Date: Dec. 15, 2021
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Stars: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri, Renato Carpentieri, Massimiliano Gallo, Betti Pedrazzi, Biagio Manna, Ciro Capano
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes
Paste Review Score: 8.9

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Paolo Sorrentino bookends his new coming-of-age opus, The Hand of God, with divine representation, and spends every moment in between grousing over life’s endless parade of disappointment. Humanity is dreadful. Everything is a failure. Reality is lousy. “What a shitty world this is,” one woman opines around 45 minutes into the movie. “You go buy dessert and when you get back, your husband’s in jail.” The details are irrelevant. It’s the sentiment that lands. The dialogue reads like Sorrentino soliloquizing via his characters, airing grievance after grievance about the grounding effect of The Hand of God’s story on its plot: Set in 1980s Naples, attending to the rich, boring routine comprising the comings and going of the tight-knit family Schisa—father Saverio (Toni Servillo) and mother Maria (Teresa Saponangelo), and their sons, eldest Marchino (Marlon Joubert) and youngest Fabietto (Filippo Scotti)—Sorrentino constructs the film with fewer surrealist flourishes than in his latter-day works, a la 2018’s Loro, 2015’s Youth and 2013’s The Great Beauty, where a man makes a giraffe disappear into thin air in the middle of a Roman colosseum. Placed next to these pictures, The Hand of God is downright normal. Normalcy may not satisfy Sorrentino’s characters, whether principle or supporting, but The Hand of God finds abundance in quotidian Italian conventions: Abundance of meaning, abundance of beauty, abundance of comedy, and so as to avoid burying the lede, The Hand of God is consistently hilarious for the first hour or so (an opening scene of domestic violence notwithstanding). The Hand of God isn’t escapism, contradicting Fabietto’s late-stage career goals. It is an entertaining hoot and a poignant drama that mellows into an exercise in bereavement in its second half, where Fabietto takes his mind off of a world-shattering tragedy by fanboying out over Capuano and getting into trouble with Armando (Biagio Manna), Sorrentino’s secret weapon: A gregarious cigarette smuggler whose wild streak belies abiding loyalty to whomever he calls “friend.” It’s impossible to keep up. The Hand of God doesn’t try to. Instead, guided by Fabietto, the movie takes its time. It watches. It breathes. It captures life with a clarity even Sorrentino’s best efforts haven’t quite—which makes it his best effort to date.—Andy Crump

6. The Unforgivable

unforgivable.jpg Netflix Release Date: Dec. 10, 2021
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Will Pullen, Aisling Franciosi, Viola Davis, Linda Emond, Richard Thomas, Rob Morgan, Tom Guiry, W. Earl
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes
Paste Review Score: 2.1

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When Nora Fingscheidt’s sophomore feature, The Unforgivable, slowly grinds to a conclusion after 114 grueling minutes of indecisive storytelling, one question lingers unanswered: Just who the hell is the title referring to? Who in this film is utterly beyond redemption? Who screws up so badly that, when all’s said and done and Netflix zaps the screen down to the size of a sticky note and cajoles you into queuing up the next round of content slop, they aren’t worth a second chance? Who can’t, who shan’t, we forgive? Fingscheidt’s not telling. We have to guess for ourselves. Is it Ruth (Sandra Bullock), the martyr and mama bear putting herself through a meat grinder to protect her loved one? Steve Whelan (Will Pullen), son of the late Sheriff Mac Whelan (W. Earl Brown), itching to avenge his dad’s slaying years prior to the film’s events? Michael and Rachel Malcolm (Richard Thomas and Linda Emond), the greatest obstacles standing between Ruth and her long-lost sister, Katie (Aisling Franciosi), whom they adopted following a childhood tragedy she’s mercifully forgotten? Is the American penal system unforgivable? Is hiring Viola Davis for about ten minutes of screen time unforgivable? Maybe compressing a TV series down into cinema is the greatest crime here; The Unforgivable’s countless structural problems make that case without even trying. Fingscheidt—along with screenwriters Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz and Courtenay Miles—has adapted The Unforgivable from Sally Wainwright’s 2009 British miniseries Unforgiven, without pausing to consider the differences between mediums and the tricks to remaking television into a movie. Want to make a thriller? Make a thriller. Want to make a character study orbiting one woman’s hardships couched in the mechanics of America’s criminal justice system? Make that instead. It’s possible for cinema to weave this many themes and concerns together into one cohesive film. The Unforgivable simply doesn’t. —Andy Crump

7. Mixtape

mixtape.jpg Netflix Release Date: Dec. 3, 2021
Director: Valerie Weiss
Stars: Beverly Moody, Julie Bowen, Jackson Rathbone, Olga Petsa, Audrey Hsieh, Diego Mercado, Nick Thune
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 97 minutes

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The songs that a person has in their music library can tell you pretty much everything you need to know about them. Mixtape, a new Netflix film directed by Valerie Weiss (The Archer) and written by Stacey Menear (The Boy), takes that notion to the extreme. Set in the late ’90s, Mixtape follows Beverly Moody (Gemma Brooke Allen), a middle-schooler who never got to know her parents, because they died when she was a baby. When Beverly finds a busted mixtape they made, she realizes this is her opportunity to finally get to know them by reconstructing it. What ensues is a quirky coming-of-age comedy with enough ’90s jams to really take you back. Also in the cast is Julie Bowen as Gail, Beverly’s grandma, Jackson Rathbone, Olga Petsa, Audrey Hsieh, and Diego Mercado. —Aurora Amidon

8. “Single All the Way

Netflix Release Date: Dec. 2, 2021
Director: Michael Mayer
Stars: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Kathy Najimy, Luke MacFarlane, Jennifer Coolidge, Barry Bostwick
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 101 minutes

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Netflix’s first Christmas film focused on a gay romance, Single All The Way, bundles up the tried and tested rom-com formula and re-wraps it in some modern wrapping paper to deliver a joyous gift of open-armed acceptance. All the familiar beats are refreshed by Peter (Michael Urie) and Nick (Philemon Chambers), two best friends spending Christmas at Peter’s family’s home. However, as soon as they walk through the door, festive shenanigans begin: Peter’s mother has set her son up on a blind date, but one by one, the rest of the family begins to see Nick as the more perfect match. A jovial, entertaining watch for all, Single All The Way’s seasonal splendor is heightened by the iconic Jennifer Coolidge playing Aunt Sandy, who is on a mission to make the nativity a theatrical showcase. —Emily Maskell

9. The Power of the Dog

the-power-of-the-dog-poster.jpg Netflix Release Date: Dec. 1, 2021
Director: Jane Campion
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Thomasin McKenzie, Genevieve Lemon, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes
Paste Review Score: 7.5

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Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Thomas Savage, Jane Campion’s long-awaited return to the medium of film—following 2009’s Bright Star and her subsequent years spent working in television—feels apt for a director who has demonstrated prowess at crafting an atmosphere of acute disquiet. And so it goes for The Power of the Dog, a film with a perpetual twitching vein, carried by the ubiquitous feeling that someone could snap at any moment—until they do. In 1925 Montana, brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) are prosperous cattle ranchers but incompatible siblings. Phil is the ultimate image of machismo, brooding around the ranch ever adorned in his cowboy outfit and a thick layer of grime on his face, a rolled cigarette hanging against his lower lip; a character that acts in defiance of Cumberbatch’s past work. Phil is so opposed to anything even adjacent to what could be considered “feminine” that things like bathing, playing an instrument that isn’t a banjo and just being nice to women are the kinds of activities which might lead Phil to inquire “Fellas, is it gay if…?” on Twitter. From the castration of the bulls on the Burbank ranch, to Phil’s status as the black sheep of his respectable family, to the nature of the western landscape tied to Phil’s performance of masculinity, the subtext is so visually hamfisted that it remains subtextual only by virtue of it not being directly spoken out loud. But the clumsiness in the film’s approach to its subject matter is propped up by the compelling performances across the board—notably from Cumberbatch, whose embodiment of a gruff and grubby rancher is at first sort of laughably unbelievable in relation to the performances that have defined the Englishman’s career. But it is, perhaps, because of this very contrast to his past roles that Cumberbatch manages to fit into the character of Phil so acutely, carrying with him an inherent awkwardness and unrest in his own skin despite the terror that he strikes in the heart of someone like Rose. He’s matched by the chilling score, composed by the inimitable Johnny Greenwood (The Master, Phantom Thread), and impeccable cinematography from Ari Wegner (Zola, The True History of the Kelly Gang), which form a perfect union of tension, intimacy and isolation in a film where the sound of every slice, snip and click evokes the same distressing sensation regardless of the source. What does it mean to be a man? The Power of the Dog considers the question but never answers it. Instead, it is preoccupied with a timeless phenomenon: The suffering endured for the very sake of manhood itself. —Brianna Zigler

10. The Summit of the Gods

summit-gods.jpg Netflix Release Date: Nov. 30, 2021
Director: Patrick Imbert
Stars: Lazare Herson-Macarel, Eric Herson-Macarel, Damien Boisseau, Elisabeth Ventura, Kylian Rehlinger, François Dunoyer
Genre: Animation, Adventure
Rating: PG
Runtime: 95 minutes
Paste Review Score: 86

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High in the Himalayas, below the summit of Mount Everest, is Rainbow Valley. There, colorful, puffy, padded parkas mark the final resting place for countless climbers looking to ascend the tip of the world. Graveyards aren’t usually colorful places, but the high-visibility gear the bodies still wear paint the valley’s snowy canvas with a bright palette. It’s morbid, but fitting. An idiosyncratic way to go, one restrictive and isolating and too dangerous to mourn—let alone to disturb the fallen. But it is also one of lasting achievement. Rarely do tombs, urns and headstones mean much outside of immediate family, and rarer still do these physical monuments to memory represent a life spent in pursuit of passion. But on the mountain, some frozen remains, like the still-unidentified man known only as Green Boots, have become landmarks incorporated into the paths of others seeking the same goal. The Summit of the Gods is a mountaineering movie similarly devoted to its cause, finding existential beauty in our mortal struggles, especially if they lay it all on the line for a greatness only truly understood by the strugglers themselves. Based on Jiro Taniguchi’s early ’00s manga, which added breathtaking environmental illustrations and sharp, shadow-intensive character designs to Baku Yumemakura’s 1998 novel, The Summit of the Gods is a testament to self-motivation through the intertwined stories of two men: Mountain climber Joji Habu (Eric Herson-Macarel) and journalist Makoto Fukamachi (Damien Boisseau). Director Patrick Imbert’s French anime sees the two cross paths thanks to a legendary Vestpocket Kodak camera belonging to George Mallory, the English mountaineer who may or may not have reached the top of Everest in the ’20s. Fukamachi sees Habu with the camera, then loses him. Fukamachi wants a scoop; Habu wants to be left alone as he prepares for his own climb.

The Summit of the Gods is a subtle movie, told in shades of white and degrees of silence, but its passion burns hot beneath the icy rime. The unknown finale of Mallory’s journey and the uncertain subsequent quests of his modern disciples simmer throughout the film. It is a war between the futile, Sisyphean nature of these climbs—where the best of the best can succumb, their achievements lost to time, and with those following behind them doing it faster, in more dangerous conditions, and with less help—and their subjective value. The Summit of the Gods’ complex storytelling and convincingly lovely vistas make its philosophical case well: Whether you’re risking it all to get to a peak, to get to the bottom of a mystery, or to create a painstaking piece of animation, you’re lucky enough to have something you love. It can be both all you need to keep going and the only thing that’ll open your eyes to what the world has to offer. It can also help you make one of the year’s best animated movies. —Jacob Oller

11. Bruised

bruised.jpg Netflix Release Date: Nov. 24, 2021
Director: Halle Berry
Stars: Halle Berry, Shamier Anderson, Adan Canto, Sheila Atim
Genre: Drama
Rating: R
Runtime: 132 minutes
Paste Review Score: N/A

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Oscar winner Halle Berry makes her directorial debut with Bruised, a drama about the world of mixed martial arts fighting in which she also stars. Written by Michelle Rosenfarb, Bruised follows Jackie “Justice,” a disgraced MMA fighter dealing with the sudden reappearance of her six-year-old son, Manny, whom she walked out on years ago. In Bruised, Jackie must not only face her own demons and compete with one of the fiercest rising stars in the MMA world, but also fight to become the mother her child deserves. Berry, who starred in John Wick 3: Parabellum opposite Keanu Reeves, reunites here with John Wick producer Basil Iwanyk of Thunder Road Pictures, along with Entertainment 360, Linda Gottlieb and the team behind the fight choreography in John Wick. —Stephan Cho

12. <<a href="">i>A Castle for Christmas

castle-christmas.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Stars: Brooke Shields, Cary Elwes, Lee Ross, Andi Osho, Tina Gray, Eilidh Loan, Stephen Oswald
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: TV-G

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I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Christmas rom-com genre possesses the most overwhelming film catalog out there. Replete with enough titles to fill the Library of Congress a couple of times over, it’s virtually impossible for new entries into the category to find even a millimeter of new thematic or narrative ground to cover. Its hit-or-miss ratio is also, unsurprisingly, astoundingly unbalanced. Sometimes, though, a Christmas miracle presents itself, and a brave, inspired filmmaker dives headfirst into the perilous genre and manages to strike gold. This year, that director was Mary Lambert—yes, the visionary behind the iconic 1989 horror film Pet Sematary (and Pet Sematary Two, of course). Her Christmas movie? Netflix’s own A Castle for Christmas. The film follows acclaimed American author Sophie Brown (Brooke Shields) who jets off to Scotland after being semi-canceled for killing off her series’ beloved protagonist. There, she falls in love with a big ol’ Scottish castle called Dun Dunbar, where her grandfather was a groundskeeper, and buys it (because why not?). To make things deliciously complicated, the property is owned by hunky-yet-frosty Duke Myles (Cary Elwes), and Sophie can only take over as proprietor once she’s proven she can handle the upkeep. Oh yes, that means sharing a living space with Mr. Saucy Duke himself.

Of course, this plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking. For starters, it turns out that Christmas movies involving royalty are very popular. But A Castle for Christmas is successful in large part precisely because it leans into this audience-endorsed formula with such ardor and earnestness. So when the unrealistic—yet highly entertaining—conflict is set into motion, it works because the film’s general electricity leads us to actually believe that everyone in this world really, really, really cares about Christmas more than absolutely everything else and, unless you’re a total grinch, the power of the holiday makes just about anything possible. We’re never led to believe that anything other than a magical just-in-time-for-Christmas romance is right around the corner, but in A Castle for Christmas, this predictability is comforting. —Aurora Amidon

13. Tick, Tick… Boom!

tick-tick.jpg Netflix Release Date: Nov. 19, 2021
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Robin de Jesús, Alexandra Shipp, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, Vanessa Hudgens
Genre: Musical, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 115 minutes
Paste Review Score: 8.2

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When Jonathan Larson’s Rent debuted on Broadway in 1996, there was one thing all audiences could agree on: It was a totally unorthodox entry into the world of musical theater. Larson was anything but predictable. It’s only fair, then, that his biopic, tick, tick… BOOM! follows the same design. Perhaps the person best suited to tell Larson’s story is Broadway’s own Lin-Manuel Miranda. Creator of the strange, idiosyncratic, rebellious—and yet absolutely venerated—Hamilton, Miranda knows better than anyone what it’s like to permanently rupture theatrical convention. tick, tick… BOOM! is based around Larson’s one-man show of the same name, which he performed in 1990. It tells the story of his life, and what it’s like to be a struggling, aspiring composer in New York City. (Spoiler alert: It’s not easy). The film is structured around the show itself, performed by a disheveled and charismatic Andrew Garfield. From there, we weave between the show and vibrant flashbacks that illustrate exactly what Jonathan is talking (well, singing) about. Rent was successful largely because it is steeped so profoundly in real life. It’s a show about ordinary people struggling in New York, and Larson wasn’t afraid to depict subjects that were considered taboo in order to commit to that realism: Drug addiction, suicide, exotic dancing. He also didn’t shy away from showing the mundanity of real life. Miranda does justice to Larson’s life by mimicking that sensibility, particularly through the film’s performances. From the flitting, kinetic energy Andrew Garfield brings to his musical numbers to the surprising softness and watchfulness in every expression, this is the actor’s best performance since he smashed Mark Zuckerberg’s computer in The Social Network. Robin de Jesús, who plays Jonathan’s best friend, Michael, also stuns as he navigates the life of a struggling artist with much less intensity than Garfield. His performance breathes a pleasantly surprising air of subtlety into the role. And so we’ve got tick, tick… BOOM!, a film jam-packed with melancholy, powerhouse performances, and told with a somber, realistic storytelling structure that is at first jarring to the senses, but ultimately pays off. The joy of these musical ellipses is infectious, and that only makes it more tragic when real life comes crashing down. —Aurora Amidon

14. Red Notice

red-notice.jpg Netflix Release Date: Nov. 12, 2021
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos
Genre: Action Comedy
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 117 minutes
Paste Review Score: 2.9

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What happens when Hollywood’s marquee trio has the combined charisma of a wet paper towel? This question is inadvertently posed by Red Notice, Netflix’s latest blockbuster, which is ripe with CGI and plays like it was written by one of those AI-trained bots—with this particular one having been fed hundreds of hours of soulless, money-wasting heist flicks. The film follows FBI criminal profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), as he attempts to catch one of the world’s leading art thieves, Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), who is on a mission to steal Cleopatra’s mythic sparkling eggs. But the two get outsmarted by femme fatale art thief The Bishop (Gal Gadot) and end up in prison while she attempts to snag the eggs for herself. Where does that leave the duo? They’ve got to break out of prison and take the relics for themselves, of course. When the three leads are together, one can’t help but wonder if they’ve ever been in the same room. In fact, their intense lack of chemistry makes me suspect that their scenes are actually a composite of three people acting in different studios. Gadot’s glaring lack of comedic timing clashes with Reynolds’ expertise in that area, and Johnson and Reynolds seem only minimally invested in one another, which makes the film’s quasi-buddy-cop undertone a hard sell. All three act like they’re in their own movie—whether it’s Deadpool or Wonder Woman or Furious 7—and none seem to have gotten the memo that no one else is in that movie with them. What’s most concerning, though, is that the powers that be at Netflix put their heads together—using their advanced algorithms and personal data—and came to the conclusion that this is what will pull the masses in: A lifeless, impersonal movie with three great stars at their most lifeless and impersonal, is ultimately what will resonate with society the most. Yes, this is worth the streamer’s biggest budget to date. And that’s a scary, scary thought. —Aurora Amidon

15. Passing

passing.jpg Netflix Release Date: Nov. 10, 2021
Director: Rebecca Hall
Stars: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp, Alexander Skarsgård
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG
Runtime: 99 minutes
Paste Review Score: 6.8

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Most actors making their feature directorial debut tend to focus on, well, other actors—and it’s certainly the case that Passing, the feature debut for the wonderful actress Rebecca Hall, is attuned to the performers at its center. Hall, who can bring a sense of gravity to even the cheerfully ridiculous likes of Godzilla vs. Kong, here gets to work with a pair of performers with similarly assured-yet-grounding talent: Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, playing childhood friends who unexpectedly reunite as adults in 1920s New York City. Irene (Thompson), nicknamed “Reenie,” is married to Brian (André Holland), has two young children, and is firmly ensconced in the upper middle class. Clare (Negga) is married, too—to a man who has no idea that she, like Reenie, is Black. Both Reenie and Clare are light-skinned enough to “pass,” and while Reenie has episodes where she allows incorrect assumptions about her race, Clare has made a whole life out of pretending to be white. It’s rich material for two talented actors, but Hall shows formal ambition in the story’s telling, too. She shoots in boxy 1.33:1 aspect ratio, in high-contrast black-and-white, blasting and fuzzing out the whiter patches of the image—which makes the skin tones look grayer by comparison. After establishing the characters with such elegance and grace, the movie proceeds to nudge them toward an endpoint that is beautifully shot but curiously chilly, lacking the catharsis of something more old-fashioned. There’s strain in the movie’s restraint, frozen as it is between the melodrama of the past and the fire of the present. —Jesse Hassenger