This month’s rundown of Netflix exits is lighter than usual — maybe because they seemed to drop half their library last month — but it’s full of little gems, including a double Oscar winner, a gripping limited series, and essential works from Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen Brothers. Oh, and a comedy about a man who befriends a farting corpse.
Catch these 8 titles before they leave by the end of January. (Dates indicate the final day a title is available.)
‘Mary Poppins Returns’ (Jan. 8)
Cooking up a sequel to one of the greatest Disney features, 54 years after the fact, may have been an impossible goal to begin with; it’s certainly fair to say that Rob Marshall’s 2018 follow-up to “Mary Poppins” does not measure up to its 1964 predecessor. But it does offer genuine pleasures: poignant work by Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw as the grown-up Jane and Michael Banks; juicily animated supporting turns from Colin Firth and Meryl Streep; a handful of toe-tapping tunes; and most of all, a sharp-tongued, twinkly-eyed performance by Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, gamely capturing much of the matter-of-fact magic of Julie Andrews’s original characterization.
‘The Master’ (Jan. 14)
One of Paul Thomas Anderson’s most prickly and challenging pictures (and that’s saying something), this 2012 drama prompted plenty of prerelease hand-wringing, as Anderson reportedly drew the inspiration for his script from the Church of Scientology and the biography of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. But this is no mere exposé. Anderson’s story of an alcoholic drifter and World War II veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who stumbles into the circle of a religious leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a complicated examination of blowhard masculinity, male bonding and cults of personality, bolstered by Anderson’s detailed period direction and the performances of two titans at the peak of their powers.
‘A Serious Man’ (Jan. 15)
The Coen Brothers followed up one of their broadest comedies (“Burn After Reading,” from 2008) with one of their strangest, a retelling of the Book of Job set in their home turf of Minnesota, circa 1967. The peerless character actor Michael Stuhlbarg gets a rare leading role as Professor Larry Gopnik, whose personal and professional life falls into such a shambles that he begins to question his Jewish faith. Darkly funny yet endlessly thought-provoking, “A Serious Man” has the Coens using Gopnik as a vessel to examine their own views on faith and humanity. And while they land on nothing so simple as “answers,” their journey and insights are strangely exhilarating.
‘Dallas Buyers Club’ (Jan. 15)
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto won Academy Awards for best actor and best supporting actor for this 2013 drama from the director Jean-Marc Vallée, loosely inspired by a true story. McConaughey stars as Ron Woodruff, an H.I.V. positive Texan in the mid-1980s who funneled his frustration over limited AIDS treatments into action, smuggling experimental drugs into the country while the F.D.A. battled him for his efforts. “Dallas Buyers Club” occasionally falls into the traps of simplification and boilerplate storytelling that plague so many biopics, but Vallée’s direction is vivid and vibrant, and the performances are touchingly humane.
‘Waco’: Limited Series (Jan. 15)
We’re reaching a point, in the combined (and often intertwined) arcs of nostalgia and re-evaluation, in which it seems that every major news event of the 1990s has received the movie, mini-series or documentary treatment. This 2018 effort revisits the 1993 standoff at the Waco, Tex., compound of the Branch Davidian sect, in six episodes drawn from the memoirs of the Davidian survivor David Thibodeau and the F.B.I. hostage negotiator Gary Noesner. Even at that expanded length, the series sometimes pulls its punches, missing opportunities to connect these events to the fierce anti-government movements of ensuing decades. But the performers are not to be missed — particularly the reliably intense Michael Shannon as Noesner, and a shockingly effective Taylor Kitsch as the sect leader David Koresh, a role miles removed from his matinee idol work on “Friday Night Lights.”
‘Swiss Army Man’ (Jan. 29)
If there’s one thing you can say about modern movies, it’s that they tend to play it safe — every movie seems like a reflection of every other movie, and before you know it, your only entertainment options are a superhero flick, a “Star Wars” series, and a gritty “reboot” of a terrible show from the 1980s. So hats off to Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, who wrote and directed this 2016 story of a desperate man (Paul Dano), trapped on a desert island, who befriends a washed-up corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) and makes ingenious use of the dead man’s post-mortem flatulence. Maybe it’s off-the-charts bizarre, maybe it’s tasteless, but you’ve got to admit: You’ve never seen anything quite like it.
‘Death at a Funeral’ (Jan. 31)
This 2010 comedy, directed by Neil LaBute, was a bit of a head-scratcher — a remake of the British film of the same title from only three years previous, merely shifting the setting of the events to America and the race of its central characters from white to Black. (Peter Dinklage plays the same role in both versions.) Chris Rock, as both star and producer, assembles an enviable collection of his comic contemporaries (including Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Regina Hall, Loretta Devine, Zoe Saldana and Kevin Hart), with the beloved elders Danny Glover, Keith David and Ron Glass joining ringers Luke Wilson and James Marsden to round out the ensemble.
‘Pineapple Express’ (Jan. 31)
The “Freaks and Geeks” co-stars Seth Rogen and James Franco took their considerable odd-couple chemistry to the big screen for the first time in this 2008 hit from the director David Gordon Green. The sharp script, penned by Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, mixes its laid-back Cheech & Chong-style “stoner comedy” with the fast-paced shoot-em-up action of ’80s adventures like “Beverly Hills Cop,” a tonal mismatch that could have easily failed. But it landed, thanks to the easygoing charisma of its leads — and the masterly scene-stealing of Danny McBride, in his breakthrough role.