One month down, two to go. The end of year movie blitz is in full swing, and so far it’s going swimmingly. My best of the year list has at least a few contenders, and likely many more to come. So what’s on deck for November? Only a big-budget, sci-fi book adaptation, a biopic that hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, the next Love, Actually (potentially) and the next installment in the Jennifer-Lawrence-is-a-badass series, among others.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
ENDER’S GAME (November 1) – I’ve documented well my love of reading on these pages, and Ender’s Game is right up there with The Giver among the most influential books of my childhood (The Babysitter’s Club ranks pretty high up there, too). After years of speculation and more than a few versions of the script, the book about a wunderkind warrior is finally in theaters this month. And so far, the word is good – Variety even said the adaptation “actually pulls it off.” Not high praise, but I’ll take it. My worst fear was this one being panned, and then I’d have to avoid seeing it. So if the reality is it’s merely “good enough,” I’ll take it. Starring Asa Butterfield – the next Johnny Depp, mark my words – alongside vets like Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis, the plan is to see this one over Thanksgiving with my mom and brothers. Can’t wait. Check out the trailer
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (November 1) – To be honest, this feels like one of those movies I’ll have to see because of the lengths its lead actors went to for their characters. And after listening to Jordan Catalan….I mean, Jared Leto’s interview on Fresh Air, I have to say, I’m impressed by the transformations. Strictly speaking, the subject matter isn’t one that has me terribly intrigued – a bigot in Texas contracts AIDS and finds himself illegally trafficking preventative medications to others like him in need of the life-saving treatments. But I’m all for an Oscar-bait performance (seems McConaughey is overdue for his nom lately), so I’ll add it to my to-see list. See the trailer
DIANA (November 1) – Naomi Watts as Princess Diana. Fairly ingenious casting that, from all the lukewarm-to-bad buzz around it, doesn’t quite pay off. Which is unfortunate, because such an icon of the last few decades deserves a film that works, a film that captures her influence and her intricacies and, unfortunately it sounds like this isn’t it. Focusing on the last couple years of her life, the feedback I’ve read on the movie – which made some high-profile festival premieres this fall – is that it plays more like tabloid than tribute. You be the judge – here’s the trailer
THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN (November 1) – Watch the trailer for this one first. Got it? If you had to guess, I imagine you’d say this one is a sexy foreign bluegrass romance (because those four words go together often, I realize). And you’d be right, based on all the marketing. In reality, the film is much darker, I’m told – more about the couple’s undoing after the death of their daughter than the trailer would have you believe (no spoilers – it says so in the short synopsis on IMDb). Had I gone into this one on the trailer alone, I would’ve been completely blindsided by that plot line, a risky marketing strategy to say the least. Because if it doesn’t work, you’ve just pissed off audiences expecting one thing and getting another. But like any risk, it can pay off, too – the critical buzz on this one is so overwhelmingly positive, the tragic story line may well be forgiven.
ABOUT TIME (November 8) – I don’t know much more about this one other than it stars Rachel McAdams and it’s made by the same guy who we have to thank for Love, Actually and Notting Hill. But really, what more do we need to know? Those two bits of information are enough to get me to a movie theater. But you need a bit more? The film’s tagline is “A new funny film about love. With a bit of time travel.” Seriously, if I were the exec hearing that pitch, I’d have it in production before lunch. I’m very much looking forward to having another charming little romance on my go-to watch list. Enjoy the trailer
THE ARMSTRONG LIE (November 8) – Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; Freakonomics) wanted to make a movie about Lance Armstrong’s incredible life. It just so happened that in the middle of telling the athlete’s tale, Armstrong’s entire world came undone when he finally admitted doping. The resulting film – instead of a triumphant chronicle of a man beating the odds – turns into a screed on power, intimidation and keeping the lie going as long as possible. And it looks fascinating. Let the trailer tell you more
THE HUNGER GAMES (November 22) – Here’s the long and short of it: I avoided The Hunger Games (books and first film) for a long time, and then I was unemployed in Utah and the first film hit Netflix and I came around to the awesome of it. I still haven’t read the books (and probably won’t), but I will gladly go check out the next installment in the theaters to keep up with Katniss and crew. As far as epic sci-fi chronicles go, it ranks solidly somewhere between Harry Potter and Twilight, though to its credit closer to the former. See the final trailer here
NEBRASKA (November 22) – I got to see this one back in October at the New York Film Festival; I was curious to see Alexander Payne’s first go-round with material he hadn’t written himself (he of The Descendants, Sideways, et al). It took me a bit to get into it – there really isn’t anything to like about curmudgeon Woody (Bruce Dern) and his harping wife (June Squibb) – but slowly, the film won me over in its sparsity. Dern and Will Forte, in a dramatic turn as the grown son looking after his aging father, won me over as well, both flawed and earnest – an on-screen father and son rapport in which I imagine real-life fathers and sons will find much to identify with. See the slightly sad trailer here
FROZEN (November 27) – Disney offers their animated feature of the year, going after the kids and kids-at-heart crowd with every-woman heroine Anna, in the story of a balmy kingdom that finds itself sunk into perpetual winter. In true Disney fashion, it’s a musical, too. Though you wouldn’t know it from the trailer. Instead, it makes this one look like a laugh-a-minute wild ride, which could backfire – it’s nearly impossible to keep that pace up for a solid 70 minutes. My main takeaways from the two and a half minute teaser: I’m actually quite excited to see it (maybe with my kid siblings, though I’d go on my own, too), and I’m going to call everyone FiestyPants from now on. The Wrap seems to like it, so with any luck, Disney’s got another modern classic on its hands (see Brave).
PHILOMENA (November 27) – The last time I saw Judi Dench on screen, I was at a cafe in Patnem Beach, India watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on their patio one warm spring evening (I’d seen Skyfall in theaters; I was late coming to Marigold). When the woman who wins Oscars for eight minutes on screen (see: Shakespeare in Love) makes a starring turn in a Stephen Frears drama (The Queen) written by Steve Coogan (The Trip, In The Loop), it’s a good idea to pay attention. The story follows the titular character’s search for her long-lost son and the one-time journalist along for the ride; what looks like a happy blend Coogan-esque quips and genuine heart could turn out to be a heartwarming hit over the holiday season (alliteration aside). See if you agree, with this trailer
I’m sure there’s more to see in November – Indiewire calls out this list of 6 indies and this list of ten wider releases worth noting. I might not make it to each of the ones here in the theater, but I’ll make the effort to see more than one, and keep an eye on the others all the same. And judging by the star power, filmmaker cache and studio dollars behind them to varying degrees, we’ll be talking about more than a few of them for the duration of awards season.