November is packed to the brim with films to check out in theaters. Fifteen is a record-high for the list. From a Fantastic adventure to a cracked-out Cage to a bleak Road, there is something for everyone. Check out the list below.
15. 2012 (Emmerich, Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: An academic researcher leads a group of people in a fight to counteract the apocalyptic events that were predicted by the ancient Mayan calendar.
Why You Should See It: The two hour and thirty-eight minute runtime may be a bit excessive, but Roland Emmerich’s latest destruction vehicle is about as ultimate as it gets, begging to be seen in a theater.
14. The Young Victoria (Vallee, Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: A dramatization of the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria’s rule, and her enduring romance with Prince Albert.
Why You Should See It: Early festival reviews regard Blunt’s performance as one of the best of her career. If period romances are your thing, this isn’t one to miss.
13. Pirate Radio (Curtis, Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: A 1960’s comedy about an illegal radio station run by a band of rogue DJs on a ship in the middle of Britain’s North Sea. By defying the tastes and laws of the ruling government, the disc jockeys hooked their listeners on pop music and its attendant ideas of love and free will.
Why You Should See It: A light, enjoyable ride with an entertaining cast and a fantastic soundtrack. It isn’t quite as memorable as Love Actually, Richard Curtis’ previous project, but Pirate Radio (previously known as The Boat That Rocked) has enough crowd-pleasing moments to be worthy of a watch.
12. Red Cliff (Woo, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: Set during the end of China’s Han Dynasty, two rivaling warlords make a pact to turn their respective armies against a power hungry general bent on taking over their kingdoms.
Why You Should See It: The US release of John Woo’s epic is getting trimmed down from 280 minutes to 148 (changes here). Both cuts have received positive reviews and are a supposed “return to form” for the director.
11. The Box (Kelly, Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: A young couple is gifted with a mysterious box that promises them a handsome windfall with deadly consequences.
Why You Should See It: Donnie Darko and Southland Tales director Richard Kelly is headed mainstream with this ’70’s sci-fi/thriller throwback. Reviews have been mixed, but after his previous work this is bound to be at least interesting.
10. The Princess and the Frog (Clements + Musker, Nov. 25th)
Synopsis: A fairy tale centered on a young girl named Princess Tiana who lives in New Orleans’ French Quarter during the Jazz Age.
Why You Should See It: Disney returns to 2D from the people that brought us Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Treasure Planet. The film isn’t getting a wide release until early December, but those in NY and LA should check this out as soon as possible.
9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Herzog, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: Terence McDonagh (Cage) is a drug- and gambling-addled detective in post-Katrina New Orleans investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants.
Why You Should See It: I had the pleasure of seeing Herzog’s wild ride at the Toronto International Film Festival. Cage delivers a wildly eccentric performance, only heightened by the extravagant amount of drugs pumping through his system throughout the entire film.
8. Ninja Assassin (McTeigue, Nov. 25th)
Synopsis: Raizo (Rain) is a rogue ninja who comes to the aid of Mika Coretti (Harris), a Berlin-based Interpol agent who has linked the shadowy Ozunu Clan, a secret society of assassins who trained Raizo, to a series of murders. Most dangerous to them both is Takeshi (Yune), Raizo’s former ally and the assassin leading the charge of Ozunu killers to Berlin.
Why You Should See It: From James McTeigue, the man behind V For Vendetta, comes all that style with little substance. Early reports and the trailer suggest you are getting exactly what the title promises.
7. The Messenger (Moverman, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: A soldier (Foster) struggles with an ethical dilemma when he becomes involved with a widow of a fallen officer (Morton).
Why You Should See It: From the co-writer of I’m Not There, comes another Iraq war story. This one looks more in the quality of The Hurt Locker, with award worthy performances from Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson.
6. Broken Embraces (Almodovar, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: Blind screenwriter Harry Caine (Homar) reveals the secrets of his past to a young associate, from his former life as a filmmaker working under his given name, to the accident which claimed his sight and led to a break-up with Lena (Cruz), a now-famous actress who lives in a gilded cage with her wealthy older partner.
Why You Should See It: This isn’t as off kilter or extraordinary as Almodovar’s other works, but with visuals as stunning as the performances this is an engaging drama a step above the rest.
5. A Christmas Carol (Zemeckis, Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: An animated retelling of the Charles Dickens novel about Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey), a Victorian-era miser who is taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions.
Why You Should See It: The new Zemeckis motion-capture project still looks a bit creepy, but it fits perfectly with a story like this. This should also prove to be a worthy prep before Avatar revolutionizes the 3D field next month.
4. The Men Who Stare at Goats (Heslov, Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: In Iraq, reporter Bob Wilton (McGregor) meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney), whose seemingly wild claim – that he’s a member of the U.S. Army’s First Earth Battalion, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions – causes Wilton to join Cassady’s hunt for the battalion’s founder, whose gone missing.
Why You Should See It: From the team behind Good Night, and Good Luck comes a twisted, silly political satire. The change of pace from the serious war films will be welcomed by many.
3. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Anderson, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: Angry farmers, tired of sharing their chickens with a sly fox, look to get rid of their opponent and his family. Based on the book by Roald Dahl.
Why You Should See It: Wes Anderson’s first take on animation has been met with peculiar allegations, but his style looks like it hasn’t changed and all the stuff white people love is still intact. Searchlight is marketing it as a family film so I wonder if its success will be similar to Where The Wild Things Are. Both films don’t seem like sweeping crowd-pleasers, but his fans are sure to find solace in this new project.
2. Precious: Based On The Novel Push by Sapphire (Daniels, Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: In Harlem, an overweight, illiterate teen (Sidibe) who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
Why You Should See It: The first film to grab the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival AND the Toronto International Film Festival. Backed by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, there is quite a large amount of Oscar buzz, specifically related to Mo’Nique’ s remarkable performance.
1. The Road (Hillcoat, Nov. 25th)
Synopsis: A father (Mortensen) and son (Smit-McPhee) walk for months across a ravaged, post-apocalyptic landscape in search of civilization.
Why You Should See It: In release turmoil for awhile, we are finally getting John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I saw this at TIFF and it is bleak: uncomfortably, depressingly bleak. If one can handle it, they are bound to discover one of the best films of the year. All the performances are top-notch and the production design is something to behold.
Old Dogs (Becker, Nov. 27th)
Synopsis: Ben (Williams) is a successful businessman whose professional and personal life is altered when an old flame re-enters his life — with her two children (twins!) in tow. Finding himself temporarily in charge of their welfare, he enlists his best friend and colleague (Travolta) to co-parent.
Why You Should Avoid It: Wasn’t Wild Hogs enough? I know we all need to get paid, but if these means Robin Williams can star in World’s Greatest Dad I guess it isn’t the worst thing in the world…but it very well could be.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Weitz, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: When Bella’s blood is shed at her birthday celebration, Edward’s intense reaction to the event causes his parents to pull up stakes and leave Forks, Washington for the sake of the young lovers. Heartbroken, Bella finds a form of comfort in reckless living, as well as an even-closer friendship with Jacob Black (Lautner). Danger in different forms awaits.
Why You Should Avoid It: Twilight is infecting our culture faster than Swine flu, turning marketable angsty teens into vampire-loving consumer whores. It would be different if the franchise was worthy of praise, but unfortunately it falls quite short. Check out Let The Right On In or even True Blood for alternatives to see the miniscule positive effect this influx of vampire love has had.
The Fourth Kind (Osunsanmi, Nov. 6th)
Synopsis: An investigator (Jovovich) is dispatched to Nome, Alaska to puzzle out a 40-year-long mystery involving an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances in the town. Her videotaped evidence looks to present the most convincing evidence of alien abduction ever documented.
Why You Should Avoid It: If you want a movie that is painfully scarce of tension, scares, aliens, interesting characters, twists, good performances, engaging plot, twists, and resolution then you will love it.
Planet 51 (Blanco, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: The inhabitants of Planet 51 live in fear of alien invasion. Their paranoia is realized when astronaut Chuck Baker (voice of The Rock) arrives from Earth. Befriended by a young resident, he has to avoid capture in order to recover his spaceship and try to return home.
Why You Should Rent It: Not likely to break any new boundaries in the animation department, but with a fun premise coming from a Shrek writer and entertaining lead voice there are worse things out there.
Women in Trouble (Gutierrez, Nov. 13th)
Synopsis: A pregnant porn star, a couple of call girls, a scorned psychiatrist, a teenage goth, a flight attendant with a crush on a famous passenger… the troubles of this cluster of LA women couldn’t be more different, but on one crazy day feminine compassion will alter all of their lives.
Why You Should Rent It: Carla Gugino plays a porn star, and it’s directed and written by the guy that scribed Snakes on a Plane.
Me and Orson Welles (Linklater, Nov. 25th)
Synopsis: NYC, 1937: A week in the life of aspiring actor Richard Samuels (Efron), where he finds himself cast in Orson Welles’ staging of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and falling for an older woman (Danes).
Why You Should Rent It: Debuting over a year ago at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, Richard Linklater’s latest is finally seeing a release. Efron has shown in charm in many films, but here is a true test to see if has what it takes to go further.
The Blind Side (Hancock, Nov. 20th)
Synopsis: A disadvantaged teenager is taken in by a conservative family who see tremendous promise in the young man. Despite certain obstacles, the attention and inspiration he receives helps him mature into an athletically and academically successful NFL prospect.
Why You Should Rent It: This looks pretty terrible, but I’ve heard the story it is based on is good and it is from the director behind The Rookie, which was fine for what it was. If don’t mind the forced dialogue and Oscar-bait performances displayed in the trailer, then check it out.
Do you agree with this list? What are you watching this month?