November movies: What to see, what to skip

Fantastic Beasts

Let’s be honest – 2016 has been a major loss for quality films. The past month being a particular let down – The Accountant managed to just barely pull Ben Affleck out of the quicksand that was his acting career with a measly $24 million opening box office, while Tom Cruise, the seemingly untouchable movie star, was beat out when his Jack Reacher sequel fell short in the box office returns versus Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween.

So to say film expectations fell short would be a bit of an understatement, but nevertheless, as we approach the month of November, we’ve finally begun to close in on the prestige pictures of the year that will hopefully translate into both critical and financial hits, as the Holiday and Awards seasons approach. November is chalk full of seemingly “can’t miss” block buster and Oscar-bait films that will transport audiences every which way – from the return to the wizarding world that bred Harry Potter, to the return of Mel Gibson, and yet another blockbuster behemoth in Marvel’s latest universe expansion – Thanksgiving month is going to have more than its fair share of films to try and salvage a weak year of film for all that its worth.

Here are 8 films worth checking out this month when you’re trying to fend off encroaching food comas and indegestion.

Friday, Novemeber 4th

Doctor Strange

Gone are the days in which Marvel films were even the slightest of box office uncertainties. Marvel has managed to garner so much goodwill with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and so on that the Sorcerer Supreme looks to be yet another multi-multi-million dollar monster (just a little to late to scare up the Halloween box office, but I digress). Projected to make about 60-70 million dollars opening weekend, the Benedict Cumberbatch driven comic vehicle will likely exceed expectation, as early reviews for the film have been nothing short of stellar. Featuring what is arguably Marvel’s most impressive cast to date – Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, and Rachel McAdams – Doctor Strange is hardly an unknown comic book quantity. Quite the opposite, really.

Hacksaw Ridge

Look, we can all agree that Mel Gibson has said some pretty racist things in the past, and by no means am I about to go to bat as an apologist for his close-mindedness, but the one irrefutable fact about Gibson is that the man is more than able when it comes directing spectacle films. Apocalypto and The Passion of the Christ both had their flaws, but were nothing short of grand visions of “real world” (debatable) events, and Hacksaw Ridge looks to be even more so. Based on the incredible story of Desmond Doss (played by rejected Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield), who in WWII Okinawa saved 75 men without ever shooting a gun. Doss was the only American on the frontlines to fight without a gun because he believed the shooting and killing in the name of democracy was senseless, and was the first conscientious objector to ever win the Medal of Honor. The film also stars Vince Vaughn in yet another puzzling-yet-promising dramatic role, alongside Sam Worthington and Teresa Palmer. Odds are Garfield and Gibson both get Oscar-noms for their work in the film, which would effectively wipe clean their once tarnished slates.

Friday, November 11th

Arrival

Thanks in large part to the cookie cutter, palatable-to-the-masses sci-fi that’s been presented by Disney through the likes of Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, more grounded/adult sci-fi films can make their way into the general movie going audience. One such film is Arrival (obviously), a short-story turned potential blockbuster (and early Oscar extremely darkhorse) that follows Amy Adams as the world’s foremost linguist who is called upon to join an elite task force (Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner) as they race against time to understand the reason for a number of floating “eggs” that have descended upon Earth. On the brink of global war, Adams’ character is led to the edge of humanity as she interacts with these alien visitors in order to understand their presence.

Loving

Surprisingly enough, November doesn’t feature all that many Oscar-bait films (unless you’re someone who really believes that Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts actually stand a chance for a nomination). Loving, however, is the exception, and that makes it one of the most powerful. Centered on the story of an interracial couple in 1958 Virginia who were jailed for their marriage. They fought back against the ruling and subsequently broke new legal ground as the Supreme Court abolished laws banning marriage based upon race. The film is directed by Midnight Special director Jeff Nichols and stars Nichols collaborators Joel Edgerton and Michael Shannon, along with Ruth Negga and Nick Kroll.

Friday, November 18th

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


I guess JK Rowling just couldn’t take quietly being a billionaire for the rest of her life. Instead, she decided it was time to make yet another undisputed blockbuster vehicle from the Wizarding World. All jokes aside, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is based on the book from the Harry Potter series, written by the fictional Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) about his travels throughout the world looking for and collecting magical beasts in his Mary Poppins-esque brief case. The film follows Scamander as he enters the United States and we get to see the American version of Wizarding World for the first time.

Naturally, something goes terribly wrong, and some of Scamander’s creatures get loose in New York City, giving the film a distinctly Ghostbusters-y vibe. Scamander and his cohorts scramble to recapture all the beasts, but at the same time, a dastardly group of evil wizards – presumably played by Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller – use the commotion to cause devastation throughout the city. Hopefully people end up liking the film, because Warner Brothers announced that Fantastic Beasts will be the first of at least four films, so get used to it.

Bleed for This


It’s kind of understood that for any actor to be taken seriously, or at least make an about face in his career, he has to do a boxing film – De Niro did it, Will Smith did it, Wahlberg did it [ed: don’t forget Gyllenhaal!] – and it looks as if uber-douche Miles Teller is doing the same in Bleed for This, the Vinny Paz biopic. Basically, the film follows Vinny Paz after a horrific accident places him in seemingly infinite recovery, eventually overcoming the odds to make his way back into the ring. The plot seems pretty derivative, but for once, Bleed for This seems like it could actually be the Oscar vehicle Teller was born to play (with the exception of Whiplash, which will likely be the pinnacle of Teller’s career when it’s all said and done), but early reports seem to state that Teller’s co-star, Aaron Eckhart (aka “Two Face”), is the one who puts in a truly Oscar-worthy performance as Paz’s trainer, Kevin Rooney.

Wednesday, November 23rd (Thanksgiving Holiday Release)

Allied

Every Thanksgiving, there are two types of films worth seeing – the big family film (typically a Pixar film or Despicable Me) or the ultra-serious sexy thriller that might make its way into the Oscar conversation based off of its stars alone. As you might have guessed, Allied – starring a newly single Brad Pitt and uber-Oscar winner/nominee Marion Cotillard – is the latter of the two. A romantic thriller written by Steven Knight and directed by Robert Zemeckis, Allied focuses on the romance of a Canadian intelligence officer and a French resistance fighter who fall in love behind enemy lines, reunite in London, have a kid, and are subsequently threatened by the paranoia of war, as Cotillard’s character is quietly accused of spying on Allied forces, forcing Pitt’s character to decide for himself whether or not she is a traitor.

Moana

As referenced earlier, the two types of films worth seeing around Thanksgiving are either the ultra-serious adult film, or the family-friendly cartoon film that will ultimately end up making billions of dollars. As you may have guessed, Moana is the latter of these two, as it features an eclectic cast (in classic Pixar form) of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, and music from Hamilton creator Lin Manuel-Miranda. The film follows young princess Moana around a magical Polynesian island in search of secrets and what not, who along the way runs into the demigod Maui (voiced by The Rock) to help save her island.

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