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Your Netflix Binge Guide

If like me, you've given up on the dire traffic situation this Christmas season, then Netflix will be one of the godsends we can still be thankful for. I must confess I'm not one of those who generally follow series; so while I know great things can be said about Stranger Things, Ozark, et al; my patience factor isn't up there and will always still be finding time for reading novels. So feature films are my refuge; and Netflix has provided in a big way.

Earlier in the year it was Okja - hands down one of my all time favorite films of 2017. Like a modern-day Babe, but with dark, pithy humor; it wasn't just about meat consumption but a parable about our times, about consumerism, today's style of marketing/branding, and Love. While Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal were great in the film, the CGI Okja and the Korean girl, Seo-Hyeun Ahn steal the show. Kudos to Bong Joon-Ho for his deft directorial touch!

Dustin Hoffmann, Ben Stiller, and Adam Sandler - those three names alone should make you rush to watch The Meyerowitz Stories. That Noah Baumbach directs is icing on this wonderful acting 'cake'. Mercurial, gritty and real, funny in a sly way, and always compassionate; you can just feel how Baumbach loves these characters. Yes it's about family, about relationships, about Art, and the challenges we face as individuals, but the veneer of smart humor is so consistent. 

Director Angelina Jolie on the set of First They Killed My Father

The more noteworthy, recently uploaded films on Netflix has to include First They Killed My Father. Directed by Angelina Jolie and Cambodia's official submission for the Oscars Best Foreign Film, the movie is based on Loung Ung's memoir of the same name. About her life as a 7-year old forced to be a child soldier in 1971 under the Khmer Rouge regime, this is one gripping tale that is shocking, sad, dramatic, and cautionary in equal measures. Sreymoch Sareum is impressive portraying Ung. And you have to love Jolie's movie guts in filming this with an all-Cambodian cast and in their language. 

El Camino Christmas is a December entry that plays like small town Tarantino. Luke Grimes, Michelle Mylett, and Vincent D'Onofrio lead the cast of this hostage situation comedy of errors. Tim Allen is the surprise here, going dramatic with shafts of humor. For those old enough to remember Home Improvement and The Santa Clause (and Tim was the voice of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story), Tim was the man playing the kind of roles that now go to Justin Bateman. There are lapses in the tone and execution of this film, and the seasonal implication of the title doesn't really hold water; but it is more entertaining than being stuck on EDSA.

Mudbound is the one to look out for if you're in the mood for something serious and dramatic, with truly great cinematography. I still have to watch this, but it has been figuring in this Awards season. It is about race relations in 1940's rural Mississippi; centering on two families, one white and one black, both with veterans who have come back from the War.