Monthly Preview: November 2015

calendar2Welcome to November! This month features a definitive Fall Movie Season schedule, mixing awards-bait dramas and late-year blockbusters, with some comedies added for good measure. What’s particularly notable (if not all that surprising) is that almost half of the movies on my list come out on Thanksgiving weekend, which should make for a lot of cinematic joy between the turkey and football and shopping deals. But besides that, there are more than enough good-looking films to fill the time between now and Tryptophan-o’clock. Let’s take a look at what November has in store for us.

Spectre: Despite the fact that I flat-out LOVED Skyfall, I don’t think I’ve ever been as disinterested in a new Bond movie as I have been for Spectre. There’s no real reason to be, as it brings back the entire team from Skyfall while adding cast members like Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci and Dave Bautista, and yet my indifference remains. Perhaps Kingsman was such an effective Bond deconstruction that I’m less excited by the real thing. Or maybe it feels like the more character-driven nature of the Daniel Craig Era is being taken a step too far with this “architect of all your pain” backstory stuff. Either way my enthusiasm remains muted, but even so I’ll still be there opening night to see what comes next for 007.

Spotlight: Maybe it’s a side-effect of adulthood, but I find myself way more excited for non-police procedurals than ever before. And by all accounts, Spotlight is as good as it gets. Featuring a stunning cast and a perpetually-heartbreaking story, for me the real head-turner on this film is co-writer/director Tom McCarthy. McCarthy is best known for quiet character studies like The Station Agent, and the only reason Spotlight isn’t the biggest left turn in his career is that his last film was The Cobbler with Adam Sandler. I’m really curious what McCarthy will bring to the table with this film, and I’m really hopeful it will live up to the impressive hype (not to mention the importance of the story it’s telling).

The Night Before: Almost a decade into his career, Jonathan Levine has proven to be a very flexible and capable filmmaker, having directed fun genre fare and emotionally-charged dramedies with equal skill. Now he’s tackling straight-up comedy with The Night Before, reteaming with 50/50 costars Seth Rogen and JGL while effortlessly adding Anthony Mackie to the mix. The result looks to be a wild and very funny holiday comedy, and one that still retains the emotional depth that has made Levine’s earlier work so effective. This should be a good bit of fun between tragic dramas this month, and there’s nothing better during the holidays.

Carol: As of the writing of this post, I have yet to see a Todd Haynes movie, and hopefully Carol will not have to be my first. But as far as I can tell, if Carol is my first exposure to Haynes’ work it will be a very positive one indeed. The reviews from Cannes were absolutely ecstatic, for Haynes and for stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The film looks like a beautiful, tragic romance, possibly one that transcends its queer context as a universal examination of doomed love. Hopefully Carol can tread the fine line between tragic and life-affirming, and uplift the audience even as it moves us to tears. Given Haynes’ reputation, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Legend: While the gangster film can often be a major artistic event thanks to the Scorseses and Coppolas of the world, sometimes it’s nice to get a bit of throwback pulpy fun, which is exactly what it sounds like we’re getting in Legend. This isn’t particularly surprising when you consider it comes from Brian Helgeland, who brought us Payback as his directorial debut. But even as the style of the film seems to parallel the overly-colorful cartoonishness of Matthew Vaughn’s work, we have not one but TWO brilliant-looking Tom Hardy performances to ground the proceedings. The critical reception of the film as a whole has been mixed but the praise of Hardy’s twin turn has been almost unanimous. No matter what else happens with the film, I know I can’t wait to see Hardy dominate the screen twice over.

The Good Dinosaur: Yup, that’s right, it’s the SECOND Pixar film of the year. And while Inside Out was the more hyped film going into the year (and rightfully so, given the final product), I think there’s a chance that The Good Dinosaur will keep pace with it easily. While there were some behind-the-scenes difficulties during production, and some people aren’t in love with visual aesthetic, to me it has as much emotional potential as anything Pixar has done so far. I love the cartoony designs for the dinosaurs and it seems like the story is broad and relatable in the way many of the best Pixar films are, better to deliver a strongly-considered moral with. Over several recent Thanksgiving Eves, my girlfriend and I have enjoyed some really great animated films, and this year I think The Good Dinosaur will help us continue that tradition with aplomb.

Creed: I never actually saw any of the Rocky movies besides the first one, so I missed out on the longform relationship between Rocky and Apollo Creed, but also on the increasingly-cartoonish nature of the unlikely franchise. Thankfully, this surprisingly smart-looking revamp of the series seems to lean a lot on the former and eschew the latter, and return to the gritty independent vibe of the original film. Michael B Jordan looks perfect as Apollo’s son, and Stallone seems to be playing the aged Rocky perfectly. Not to mention that Ryan Coogler (of the wrenching-if-melodramatic Fruitvale Station) was an inspired choice to direct the film. Ultimately what makes Creed look so damn good is that it seems to be made like a legitimate drama, not a blockbuster reboot, and that has me very excited.

The Danish Girl: I don’t know if Tom Hooper is the favorite director of anyone who isn’t a 60-year-old Oscar voter, but while his work might not be anything special I certainly wouldn’t say any of it is bad either. That makes The Danish Girl an interesting proposition to me. On the one hand, Hooper is unlikely to do anything particularly risqué or challenging with the story of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe. But on the other hand, as several early reviews have pointed out, that direct and obvious approach might benefit the subject matter, as it would help normalize the story in familiar cinematic language for those less than empathetic to transgender life. And while Hooper seems to be taking a blandly traditional stylistic approach, the film still seems achingly romantic and human thanks to more brilliant performances from Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. The Danish Girl might not be the most revelatory film of the year, but I don’t doubt that it will be a good one.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn is supposed to be a very likable and affecting period romance, though maybe it’ll be a little too predictable; The Hallow looks like an effective creature feature, though outside the promise of cool effects work I’m not absurdly interested; Mockingjay Part 2 should close out the Hunger Games saga as effectively as its predecessors continued it, though I’ve never been fully immersed in it much myself; and finally Victor Frankenstein looks like it might be a fun romp of a movie, though some of the overt CGI set pieces in the trailer detract from what I like about the rest.

So that’s November, and we’re that much closer to the end of the year… and a certain pop-culture phenomenon’s (hopefully) triumphant return. In the meantime, enjoy the movies of November, everyone!

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