Netflix: 10 of the best new shows and films to watch in January

Among its offerings for 2020, Netflix asks the bold question: is it okay to fancy Jesus?

Mehdi Debhi plays the charismatic young outsider

Mehdi Debhi plays the charismatic young outsider

 

Messiah

January 1st
In the year of our Lord 2020, Netflix is boldly asking the age old question: is it okay to fancy Jesus? It’s a complex, philosophical query that has been rumbling ever since Robert Powell’s blue eyes blinked out from the BBC production of Jesus of Nazareth, right through to Joaquin Phoenix’s pre-Joker turn as the wild, desert-roaming Messiah. 

This spiritual thriller created by devotional duo Roma Downey and Mark Burnett follows a mysterious, charismatic young outsider (Mehdi Debhi) who appears in the Middle East and gains a cult following after performing a series of “miracles”. With his ability to appear at moments of crisis and then disappear again, he has people pondering if he is the new Messiah or just another very naughty boy. Michelle Monaghan plays the CIA agent eager to find out whether this guru is amassing an army of zealots for terrorist reasons or if there is something deeper to this unexplained phenomenon. 

Sex, Explained

January 2nd
Narrated by singer/actor Janelle Monae, this documentary delves into all aspects of sexual behaviour, from the biology of attraction, the history of birth control, male reproductive issues and common fantasies, exploring everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask. 

Anne with an E, final season

January 3rd
The prestige drama inspired by LM Montgomery’s beloved book is drawing to a close. With her 16th birthday arriving, Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is on the cusp of adulthood, wondering about her past and worrying about her future as matters of the heart begin to take hold. 

AJ and the Queen

January 10th
Created by Sex and the City’s Michael Patrick King and RuPaul, AJ & the Queen sees Ru in the starring role as Ruby Red, a down-on-her luck drag queen who, after a series of personal disasters, tries to start her life over again, striking up an unlikely friendship with a wayward, wise-cracking 11-year-old. The duo tour across the US in a battered RV, delivering drag on a dime, challenging outmoded attitudes and discovering their true selves as they twirl their way through the dimly lit dive bars of forgotten America.

With a supporting cast of Drag Race alumni (from Latrice Royal to Trinity the Tuck) and 1990s goddess Tia Carrere, it’s a dose of escapist, campy fun to erase January blues.

Grace and Frankie, season 6

January 15th
On its way to becoming Netflix’s longest-running original series (if Jane Fonda can keep herself out of prison), Grace and Frankie is back for its penultimate season. Changes are afoot for the odd couple, with their time as housemates perhaps drawing to a close as their close-knit bond is challenged by the burgeoning relationships with the men in their lives. 

Although as with every series of the sitcom, the theme of sisterhood solidarity still stands with the pair relying on each other to navigate their way through a society that refuses to acknowledge them. As caustic as it is heartwarming, thankfully these acerbic, adroit golden girls show no signs of slowing down. 

Sex Education, season 2

January 17th
A surprise hit for the streaming service, this British comedy-drama returns for a second season following the relationship mishaps, misfortunes, misfires, loves and lusts of Otis (Asa Butterfield) and his gang of equally mixed-up misfit mates. Picking up from where season one left off, Otis is now trying to balance his difficult friendship with Maeve and his evolving affair with girlfriend Ola. 

There is also an unfortunate outbreak of chlamydia that the school must deal with, and new students come to the town challenging the status quo of the group. Gillian Anderson will return as Jean, Otis’s glamorous, sex therapist mother whose frank discussions make teen life even more mortifying for the socially awkward adolescent. 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, part 3

January 24th

This dark reimagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch starring Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka continues with Sabrina forced to face the tragic consequences that occurred at the end of the second season. Her boyfriend Nicholas (Gavin Leatherwood) having made the ultimate sacrifice, it is up to Sabrina to save his soul and bring him back to the mortal realm with the help of her “Fright Club” friends. 

The witchy teen must also make a decision about her presence in the other realm, which is threatened by a pretender to the throne, the handsome Prince of Hell, Caliban (Sam Corlett) and try to keep up with her maths homework. 

Next in Fashion

January 29th
Queen of the slashies, model/presenter/DJ/designer/writer/IT girl  Alexa Chung teams up with Queer Eye’s stylist Tan France for this competition that pits young designers against each other to become the next big thing and win an opportunity to debut their collection on luxury retail site Net-a-Porter. Next in Fashion is an updated version of Project Runway with Chung and France as new accessories to spruce up a tired format.  

The Stranger

January 30th

Based on the Harlan Coben novel of the same name, The Stranger is a psychological drama about what happens when a seemingly idyllic life is shattered by a random encounter. Spooks star Richard Armitage plays Adam Price, a loving father and husband who begins to have doubts about his relationship when he receives some shocking information about his wife.  This revelation sparks a paranoid descent. Piecing together the depth of his wife’s deception, he realises he’s become entangled in a dark conspiracy that could put his family’s lives at risk.

From the production team that previously adapted Coben’s novel Safe for Netflix, this bingeable thriller is full of the usual compelling twists.

Uncut Gems

January 31st
From the minds of the Safdie brothers comes another adrenaline-fuelled work of genius. Uncut Gems boasts an utterly compelling, brilliantly nuanced performance from Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a fast-living ducking-and-diving jeweller in New York’s Diamond District, who becomes caught up in what should be the deal of a lifetime: auctioning off a chunk of rock embedded with precious opals. 

What follows is an anxiety-inducing crime caper full of the brothers’ trademark surrealist, vulgar aesthetics. Soaked in blood, sweat and tears, Uncut Gems is an intense ride through Ratner’s chaotic, gaudy world full of bedazzled Furbys and warm leatherette. Sandler relishes the role, amid a strong ensemble cast that includes Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel and a star-making turn from newcomer Julia Fox. Uncut Gems could be the rough diamond in Netflix’s awards-season crown.

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