Back when September was wrapping up and our eyes were moving towards October, it seemed the month would be quite the prosperous time at the multiplex. For starters, the Toronto Film Festival had already stamped Gravity, Captain Phillips, and 12 Years A Slave with critical praise and Oscar buzz, and the month also promised the returns of Robert Rodriguez, Kimberly Pierce, and Ridley Scott. And yet, October was quite the bust. While those three critical hits faired well (Gravity was the undisputed king, topping the box office three weekends in a row and never dropping more than 32%), none of the other October offerings made much of an impression: Machete Kills bombed $7 million, Carrie was a Halloween dud with $32 million, The Fifth State had the worst nationwide debut of the year with $1 million, and The Counselor ended up being the biggest mess of the year. While Johnny Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa showed a little steam at the end of the month, October wasn’t nearly as memorable as it looked on paper. Hopefully November is a different story, and with two bona fide blockbusters and several indie charmers on the horizon, the box office should pick up considerably as the Holiday Movie Season gets underway. Here are 8 movies you might want to check out this month:
Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8th) – Though we haven’t had a blockbuster since Gravity dropped all the way back on the first weekend of October, that will all change when Thor: The Dark World kicks off November this Friday. With Game Of Thrones’ Alan Taylor stepping behind the camera and the principle cast returning, including Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, and Anthony Hopkins, Thor 2 should continue to reap in the benefits for Marvel and Disney, who released Iron Man 3 earlier this summer to an incredible $409 million, still the highest grossing movie of the year so far. While Thor 2 certainly won’t get that high – not every Marvel movie can have the big dollar sign known as Robert Downey Jr. – it should have no problem coasting past the original’s $180 million since these Marvel Phase Two movies act more as indirect sequels to The Avengers than they do as typical sequels to their predecessors (as evidenced by Iron Man 3). Another big positive is the fact that the film is quite fun (catch our review later this week) and should easily cater to fanboys and regular blockbuster-lovers alike. In other words, expect box office fireworks…that is until Katniss makes her entrance (see below).
About Time (Nov. 8th) – There’s been quite the drought of romantic comedies at the multiplex lately, so who better to bring the genre back to theaters just in time for the Holiday Season than Richard Curtis, the successful British writer/director of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones, Notting Hill, and Love Actually. Starring the fresh faced Domhnall Gleeson as a helpless romantic who learns he can travel through time, the film follows his subsequent relationships with the beautiful Mary (Rachel McAdams) and his fellow time-traveling father (Bill Nighy). It may sound schmaltzy but Curtis is an expert at playing comedy and drama off one another and the chance to see a rom-com from the male’s perspective should be especially refreshing after so romances with Nicholas Sparks, love-torn women as the lead. And thanks to The Notebook and The Vow, the lovely Rachel McAdams is already a rom-com superstar and should have no problem bringing in men and women for this quirky little gem.
Nebraska (Nov. 15th LIMITED) – Over his four feature films – Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, and The Descendants – Oscar-winning writer-director Alexander Payne has proven a master of the comedy-drama and has never missed a beat. Luckily, the poignant Nebraska keeps Payne’s impeccable legacy intact and is a must-see family gem this Thanksgiving. Staring Saturday Night Live veteran Will Forte and the great Bruce Dern (who won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and is certainly bound for an Oscar nomination), the film follows a father and son as they venture across the Midwest to the titular state where the father believes an Internet sham has won him a million dollars. Shot in pristine black-and-white, Payne utilizes a dry, Fargo-like sense of humor and one hell of a senior cast to dig deep under themes about time, aging, and self-purpose. None of the performers are playing comedy and the story is certainly melancholy, but Payne sees the humor in heartbreak and conformity like no other working director and Nebraska is a testament to his wonderful storytelling abilities. Out of any movie this month, Nebraska is the definitive must-see.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 22nd) – Hold on to your Iron Man suit Tony Stark, for if anyone is going to give you a run for your money at the 2013 box office it’s none other than Katniss Everdeen. When The Hunger Games debuted in March 2012, the film become an instant global phenomenon and found a staggering $408 million domestically, a gross that no single Harry Potter or Twilight film ever reached. Since then, the franchise’s popularity and awareness has skyrocketed, as has the image of the astounding Jennifer Lawrence, who is perhaps the most sought after young actress in America after leading the first Games to boffo numbers and winning the Best Actress Oscar last February for her vivacious Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. So just how high does this sequel go? With the stakes of the story clearly more intense this go around and early tracking already hinting that it could become the second highest grossing debut of all time, Catching Fire is bound to ignite the box office but whether or not it surpasses the original will entirely depend on how good the actual movie is (it hasn’t screened for press yet). If I were you, though, I wouldn’t bet against the girl on fire!
Philomena (Nov. 22nd LIMITED) – No one does humor and heartbreak better than Judi Dench and the wonderful Philomena is an excellent showcase for the legendary dame’s many talents. Inspired by true events and written by co-star Steve Coogan, the film focuses on a charming old woman who, with the help of a journalist and ex-government advisor, travels to America in hopes of finding her son who was forced into adoption. Along with Nebraska, Philomena is perfectly timed for Thanksgiving with its themes about family and friendship and it should be quite the title for mothers and grandmothers. Dench’s winning performance has been earning Best Actress Oscar buzz and director Stephen Frears’ sensitive direction successfully spins a poignant mystery with more traditional buddy-road trip elements. All in all this is sweet, affectionate British comedy that should play well at the specialty box office this Holiday season.
Frozen (Nov. 27th) – Take one look at last year’s smash Wreck-It Ralph and it’s easy to tell that November is a lucrative time for animated movies at the box office and Disney is hoping to make magic happen again with Frozen. 2010’s Tangled proved there was still interest in the fairy-tale princess genre as it made its way to a great $200 million domestically, and Frozen, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, should find a similar reception. With an appealing voice cast of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad, plus a marketing campaign that is working overtime to appeal to the built-in girl audience as well as the apprehensive boys, Frozen should have no problem being the de facto animated hit of the Holiday Season, especially because the family marketplace hasn’t been given much attention since Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 opened in September.
Oldboy (Nov. 27th) – A new Spike Lee “joint” is always cause for celebration and his latest, an English language remake of Park Chan-wook’ brutal and dizzying Oldboy, should be quite the bloody, hard R counterprograming this Thanksgiving. Chan-wook’s original is a beloved foreign classic with a highly twisty plot, and depending on how true Lee stays to the original will determine just how shocking and surprising this remake is. While there’s no doubt Lee will relish in the story’s thirst for revenge, how he changes the story to preserve the shocks and updates the events to American times still remains to be seen, though I’d bet on Lee to have many a surprise up his outspoken sleeve. One thing we know for sure is that he’s assembled one hell of a cast – Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley, and Michael Imperioli – and while Oldboy may be too violent to bring the whole family, expect cinephiles to come out in droves to see just how Lee and company spin this classic material. We couldn’t be more excited.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (Nov. 27th LIMITED) – Though Morgan Freeman earned an Oscar nomination for playing Nelson Mandela in 2009’s Invictus, that Clint Eastwood film was undoubtedly a sports drama, meaning a new biopic about the iconic South African apartheid leader should be quite the treat indeed. While reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival seem to have lowered the film’s Oscar chances – they were perfectly solid but nothing spectacular – any chance to see Mandela’s rich story told in its factual entirety is a must-see, especially when you have the incredible Idris Elba stepping into Mandela’s shoes (early trailers have shown him mastering Mandela’s posture and voice) and the equally as impressive Naomi Harris playing his wife, Winnie. These two actors have been proving their talents for years and Long Walk To Freedom should be the perfect showcase for them.
Which November movies are you dying to see?
Article by Zack Sharf