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Best Movies and TV to Stream in Nov.: Welles, Coen Brothers, ‘Homecoming’

Tim Blake Nelson is Buster Scruggs in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a film by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Tim Blake Nelson in 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.'

Netflix

So what will you be streaming this month, you ask? Netflix pulls a major coup by landing the final feature from Orson Welles (just literal decades in the making, no big whoop), as well as dropping a sleek cyber-thriller, a somehow-even-gnarlier epic take on Braveheart-era Scotland, a follow-up to one of their biggest ongoing series and a genuinely WTF Western from the Coen brothers. Also: Amazon’s gives Julia Roberts a small-screen home away from home and YouTube’s making a push to compete with the recent deluge of flashy sci-fi fare. Does that answer your question? (For network and cable TV choices, click here.)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix, Nov. 16th)
Six shorts, two siblings and one unified vision of moral aridity in the unsettled West. The Coen brothers return to the pristine Great Plains circa True Grit for this anthology film collecting deviously clever tales of varmints and damsels, prospectors and cowpokes, immortal bandits and limbless troubadours. An impressive ensemble cast featuring Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan and Tom Waits grace what also happens to be one of the brothers’ more upbeat pictures (which is saying something), with plenty of gallows humor and the occasional musical number to keep spirits high. Saddle up for bleak irony!

Beat (Amazon, Nov. 9th)
A non-stop spiral of sex, drugs and vertiginous bass drops, Berlin’s EDM underground has a solid claim on the distinction of the craziest nightlife on the face of the Earth. The club promoter known as Beat (Jannis Niewöhner) keeps an eye on everyone and everything, which makes him the ideal contact for European Security Intelligence when they catch wind of an organ-trafficking ring operating within the 24/7 spiral of hedonism. This German export remixes the usual components of the crime procedural with an unapologetic visual excess that spends as much time luxuriating among male bodies as it does female.

The Bisexual (Hulu, Nov. 16th)
Filmmaker Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post) transmutes the trials and tribulations of life as a bisexual woman into this new romantic comedy (courtesy of Britain’s Channel 4) in which the multi-hyphenate writes, directs and stars as the lively, lusty Leila. Coming out of a years-long relationship with Sadie (Maxine Peake), our heroine now has a new roommate (Brian Gleeson) and is starting to jump back into the dating pool. Then a budding attraction to men sneaks up on her, with the lifelong lesbian reexamining her identity as she faces social hazards unique to bisexual women. (Not least among them: heterosexual men.)

Cam (Netflix, Nov. 16th)
Alice (Madeline Brewer) has worked up a nice hustle as a webcam performer named Lola. One day, she goes to log on and discovers that she’s already streaming a show, except she’s not, only there’s her alter ego on the screen. Is it a glitch? A psychological meltdown? An uncanny metaphor for the existential anxieties of a life lived online? Written by one-time sex worker Isa Mazzei and directed by her former collaborator in porn Daniel Goldhaber, it’s a psychological thriller that offers an uncommonly empathetic perspective on the business of skin.

Homecoming (Amazon, Nov. 2nd)
It’d take something major to lure Julia Roberts to a multi-episode deal on the small screen — and a new series from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail certainly fits the bill, right? She’s Heidi Bergman, a one-time employee at a shadowy project codenamed Homecoming that was designed to help soldiers readjust to civilian life. At least, that’s their stated purpose; years later, an auditor (Shea Whigham) from the Department of Defense comes asking questions and Heidi quickly realizes that she doesn’t have all the answers. If Beale Street Could Talk‘s Stephan James is a young war vet she befriends; Bobby Cannavale is her high-strung ex-boss. The less you know going in, the better.

The Kominsky Method (Netflix, Nov. 16th)
Sitcom overlord Chuck Lorre turns his gaze to the twilight years for this buddy comedy starring Michael Douglas as an actor-turned-instructor looking to make a connection in a lonely life and Alan Arkin as his recently widowed agent/lifelong best friend. They keep one another sane as they face the indignities of geriatric life, from the awkwardness of May-December romance to the unexpected intimacy of prostate exams. (Danny DeVito makes a killer cameo as an unusually friendly medical professional.) Death sucks, but it’s not nearly as bad when you’ve got someone to crack jokes with.

Narcos: Mexico (Netflix, Nov. 16th)
Call it the fourth season, call it a companion series — just don’t call it late when you owe money. Netflix’s fan-favorite crime drama tracks a course northward from Colombia to Mexico, once again focusing on a network of gangs built around bitter rivalries and the theatrical violence that goes with them. Michael Peña joins an all-new cast as undercover DEA agent Kiki Camarena; Diego Luna faces off against him as feared Guadalajara kingpin Félix Gallardo, who essentially created the cartel system as it exists today. No fair Googling who’ll survive the decade.

The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix, Nov. 2nd)
Nothing much to see here, no big deal, just a new feature film from quite possibly the greatest filmmaker to have ever lived. Orson Welles — yup, the Citizen Kane guy — died before he could finish this gonzo satire of old-school filmmakers, the New Hollywood generation and the business we call show. Cut to: a team of post-production wizards, several dogged film producers and longtime Welles buddy Peter Bogdanovich assembling various preserved reels and finally completing a definitive cut. It’s a fitting cap to an unimpeachable career.

Origin (YouTube Premium, Nov. 14th)
Welcome to YouTube’s latest bid to get a foothold in the original content race: A CGI sci-fi extravaganza in which a crew of strangers (including Game of Thrones‘ Natalia Tena and Harry Potter alum Tom Felton) hurtle through space on a vessel destined for the first planet capable of sustaining human life besides Earth. Things start in the vein of Passengers for these passengers; the revelation of far darker and weirder secrets then steers both the ship and the show towards danger. Until the next Star Wars gets off the ground, it’ll be a suitable source of zero-gravity laser fights.

Outlaw King (Netflix, Nov. 9th)
As the medieval era ravaged the rolling hills of Scotland with war against the English, a hero rose to lead his fellow Scotsmen to victory and liberty. Yeah, it sounds a whole lot like a certain Mel Gibson movie — but director David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) has plans all his own for the story of valiant Robert the Bruce. He tapped Chris Pine to put a brave face on a nobleman who withstood stiff opposition from the British crown, separation from his cherished wife (Florence Pugh) and betrayal from his own ranks. There’s an epic amount of fighting, grime and guts (literally). Try not to get too attached to any of the horses.

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