As you catch up on the best films of the year’s first 10 months, know that there’s still a great number of features worth seeking out as we near the end of 2015. November brings promising animated offerings, top-notch documentaries, the latest entry into a certain long-running spy franchise, my favorite film of the year, and more. Check out the list below and let us know what you’re most looking forward to.
Matinees to See: Theeb (11/6), The Hallow (11/6), Democrats (11/18), The Night Before (11/20), The Secret in Their Eyes (11/20), Very Semi-Serious (11/20), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (11/20), Killing Them Safely (11/27), The Danish Girl (11/27), Janis: Little Girl Blue (11/27)
15. The Peanuts Movie (Steve Martino; Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: Snoopy embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home.
Why You Should See It: Following in the footsteps of Paddington, Inside Out, and Shaun the Sheep, it looks like this year might bring another great family film that can lose the qualification and simply be considered one of 2015’s best. With positive buzz coming out of early screenings held this past weekend, this one seems to contain the laid-back charm found in Charles M. Schulz‘s original work, with producing help from Paul Feig.
14. Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (Stig Björkman; Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: A captivating look behind the scenes of the remarkable life of a young Swedish girl who became one of the most celebrated actresses of American and World cinema.
Why You Should See It: Being honored on the official poster for this year’s Cannes Film Festival wasn’t the only time Ingrid Bergman was in their spotlight, for the late, legendary actress was also the subject of a new documentary hailing from her home country of Sweden. Coming from writer and critic Stig Björkman, it has been in the works since earlier this decade, when he met with Bergman’s daughter, Isabella Rossellini. Culled together from various items from her estate — with a particularly strong use of personal videos — we’re looking forward to what’s hopefully the definitive documentary on the actress.
13. Legend (Brian Helgeland; Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.
Why You Should See It: In a year that delivered the extraordinary action spectacle that was Mad Max: Fury Road, Tom Hardy certainly doesn’t need to prove himself further, but we’ve still got two more features coming. Before The Revenant, there’s this crime biopic, about which we said in our review, “Brian Helgeland’s Legend is by no means high art, but it proves the point that a film doesn’t have to be that in order for us to immerse ourselves in its criminals. And immersed by Tom Hardy we are. Like watching James Dean, for two-plus hours we’re obsessed with his every movement, tick, and mumble — his physicality is spellbinding.”
12. Creed (Ryan Coogler; Nov. 25th)
Synopsis: The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Why You Should See It: With the failure of Fantastic Four certainly not in the hands of its actors, Michael B. Jordan will get another chance at blockbuster stardom by resurrecting a franchise that people actually care about. Creed puts a new spin on the Rocky franchise, with Sylvester Stallone returning and some fresh eyes behind the camera, thanks to Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler. Hopefully, it proves to be a strong studio break-out for Coogler; we’ll find out this Thanksgiving.
11. By The Sea (Angelina Jolie Pitt; Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: Set in France during the mid-1970s, Vanessa, a former dancer, and her husband Roland, an American writer, travel the country together. They seem to be growing apart, but when they linger in one quiet, seaside town they begin to draw close to some of its more vibrant inhabitants, such as a local bar/café-keeper and a hotel owner.
Why You Should See It: In taking what’s perhaps a needed reset after her bigger-budget World War II drama Unbroken, Angelina Jolie Pitt‘s third feature is shaping up to be her most promising outing. In a best case scenario, By the Sea will be a L’Avventura-esque meditation on commitment and romance. At its worst… well, it can’t be so bad to watch the Pitts hang out in a beautiful location.
10. Trumbo (Jay Roach; Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s top screenwriter until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
Why You Should See It: Talking about the actor’s first major leading role following Breaking Bad, we said in our review, “Bryan Cranston is irresistible as Dalton Trumbo, the blacklisted screenwriter of Oscar-winning classics Roman Holiday and Spartacus.” We added it’s a “sparkling period drama surrounding the Hollywood Ten. His larger-than-life performance promises surface sheen rather than cruel dissection of Tinseltown’s failure to stand up for those disaffected by the Red Scare. But Jay Roach’s film has the daring to flatten the reputation of Hollywood’s previously lionized – including John Wayne and Louis B. Mayer – marking an intriguing look at post-Golden Age Hollywood, helped by a very funny script from John McNamara.”
9. The Good Dinosaur (Peter Sohn; Nov. 25th)
Synopsis: An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.
Why You Should See It: Considering how accomplished their other 2015 feature, Inside Out, was, it would be unfair to expect the same level of quality from The Good Dinosaur. Then again, Pixar has been known to deliver the unexpected, so even if the trailers for this jurassic adventure don’t necessarily grab attention, hopefully we have another knock out of the park.
8. Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven; Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: Early summer. In a village in northern Turkey, Lale and her four sisters are walking home from school, playing innocently with some boys. The immorality of their play sets off a scandal that has unexpected consequences.
Why You Should See It: It surprised many that France’s Oscar bid went to Mustang instead of Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or-winning Dheepan. As we said in our review, “The main cast of sisters is led by Günes Sensoy, who plays the youngest, Lale, but also most resilient of the girls and, arguably, the main character of the story. We see most of the film from her point-of-view, and thus it’s her attitude and actions we’re most invested in. As a tenacious, tiny child, she proves to be a fearsome actor who manages to give the film’s most endearing performance.”
7. Spectre (Sam Mendes; Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
Why You Should See It: After already tearing it up at the international box-office, the latest James Bond entry lands in the United States this week. While Skyfall had unmistakablly gorgeous photography, a few entertaining setpieces, and a stand-out villain performances courtesy of Javier Bardem, I couldn’t get past the bloated, overly serious, and ultimately lifeless plot. With Spectre reportedly harkening back to the more freewheeling adventures of the timeless character, here’s hoping a better outing is in store.
6. Brooklyn (John Crowley; Nov. 4th)
Synopsis: In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Eilis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.
Why You Should See It: It doesn’t have the restrained touch of James Gray, but as far as awards-geared dramas go, Brooklyn packs a genuine amount of emotion. We said in our review, “Presented with the tale of an Irish immigrant, one would perhaps expect a dreary and brutal film about the hardships of moving to America. In a way, John Crowley‘s Brooklyn is that movie, but, really, it’s so much more. While the Nick Hornby-scripted adaptation isn’t without its tough drama, Crowley’s picture is also full of kindness and laughs.”
5. Entertainment (Rick Alverson; Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: En route to meet his estranged daughter and attempting to revive his dwindling career, a broken, aging comedian plays a string of dead-end shows in the Mojave desert.
Why You Should See It: Can you greatly admire a film you may never want to watch again? Rick Alverson‘s two most recent features certainly test that theory. In our review, we said the writer-director “makes some scary comedies. His previous endeavor, The Comedy, showed us the horrors of aging trust fund babies, making for an excellent, funny and headache-inducing result. The challenging experience that is Alverson’s latest film, Entertainment, makes The Comedy feel like a walk in the park. The comedy, which he co-wrote with star Gregg Turkington and co-star Tim Heidecker, follows a bottom-of-the-barrel comedian (Turkington) traveling from gig to gig across the California desert, performing genuinely funny and crude jokes that aren’t for everyone. But then Alverson’s not telling stories for everyone, making his films stand out all the more.”
4. James White (Josh Mond; Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: A coming-of-age story about a young New Yorker struggling to take control of his reckless, self-destructive behavior in the face of momentous family challenges.
Why You Should See It: I said in my review from Sundance, “In the five months found within James White, our title character is at the most difficult chapter of his life thus far. Grieving the loss of his father and attempting to assist his ailing mother, the drama authentically depicts the brutality of the process. After producing the gripping Sundance dramas Martha Marcy May Marlene and Simon Killer, Josh Mond diverts in some ways with his directorial debut. Providing yet another intimate character study of a fractured individual, James White also has a perhaps unexpected enveloping warmth. Commanding every scene of the film — and in most sequences, nearly all of the frame in extreme close-up — is Christopher Abbott, who worked with Mond on Marthy Marcy, but is best-known from his stint on Girls and was briefly seen recently in A Most Violent Year. “
3. Spotlight (Thomas McCarthy; Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Why You Should See It: As fellow editor Dan Mecca pointed out, it’s hard to recall another time when a director delivered one of the worst and best films in a given year, but Thomas McCarthy has certainly done so. Following up the strange misfire that was The Cobbler, Spotlight is an invigorating look at the journalistic process. Our review was a touch more lukewarm, saying, “It’s a rather broad account of the events covered in the exposé and yet, in a way, is not so much about the events covered but the covering of the events. It’s about the nuts and bolts of pre-internet age investigative reporting, and about how actors who aren’t from Boston love to talk like they’re from Boston. Spotlight is no All the President’s Men, but what is?”
2. In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman; Nov. 4th)
Synopsis: Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most culturally diverse communities in the US where 167 languages are spoken. In Jackson Heights explores the conflict between maintaining ties to old traditions and adapting to American values.
Why You Should See It: Still making documentaries as relevant and accomplished as Titicut Follies and High School, Frederick Wiseman, in his latest, heads to Queens. We said in our review, “How amazing it is that a human being one century from now can fire up their wind-powered neuro-image-emitter, put on Frederick Wiseman’s In Jackson Heights, and really get a grasp of what it felt like for these people to live? The great documentarian’s latest film — screening out-of-competition this week at the Venice Film Festival — is neither a snapshot nor a love letter of some static environment, but a dense, kaleidoscopic study of a dynamic, evolving place. It’s like a time capsule of this community at a very interesting moment in their history.”
1. Carol (Todd Haynes; Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.
Why You Should See It: With only a few films left to screen this year, it would take quite a feat to unseat Todd Haynes‘ Carol as the best of 2015. We said in our review, “To be an actress and land a leading role in a Todd Haynes film must be a dream come true. With Safe, Far From Heaven, and his five-part miniseries Mildred Pierce, Haynes has proven himself to be one of the very few male directors not only interested in but capable of endowing women protagonists with genuine and far-reaching complexity. In doing so, the performances he’s drawn from his actresses – Julianne Moore in the first two titles and Kate Winslet in the lattermost – have been amongst the very finest of their careers. These virtues are again masterfully exhibited in Carol, his sublime adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt.”
What are you watching this month?