November 2013 Movie Preview

E: October was good, but November is going to be even better.  In fact, I’m not sure even December can beat this November for awesome and exciting looking movies.

M: I know I have movies I’m VERY excited for, and have been waiting for for a long time! Heck, I’m starting the month by going to the theater on the 1st, and will be going to a midnight show later in the month, too. Woohoo!

E: This November has a little something for everyone – animation, documentaries, epic action, biopics, literary adaptations, football movies, the works.  It even has the most promising romantic comedy in years.

November 1st

Ender’s Game

E: M, I know you’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time.

M: Not as long as a lot of people, but yeah. Based on the classic sci fi novel by Orson Scott Card, which is incredibly deep and thought provoking. The cast is unreal, with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin… it’s an Academy Award nominee and winner bonanza. The effects look amazing, so, yeah, I’m heading to the theater for this one right away.

E: Not having read the book, I’m not shivering with the same level of anticipation, but the cast definitely does it for me.  And of course your enthusiasm, M.

M: For those unfamiliar with the book, read it. If you can’t and want to know the basics, this is set in a future where the earth has been attacked by hyper-intelligent bugs, and barely survived. The military has been training children from a super-early age (six, in the book) to try to develop the next general who will help humanity survive the next attack. In the book we see Ender (the main character) grow from age 6, and go through his training, and build bonds, friendships and enemies. Outside his training there is political manipulation going on in the world that are very relevant to him and his family. Additionally, and completely expectedly, he is troubled emotionally by what he is being put through. The ending is so deep, mind-bending, and makes you rethink most everything you thought while reading, and it is just a brilliantly crafted story. Honestly, when I finished reading it I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it, but I knew I loved it. It was very, very different than your usual sci fi extravaganza.

E: There’s a bit of controversy surrounding the movie, because Orson Scott Card donates money to anti-gay marriage political groups.  There subject isn’t touched on in the film, as I understand it, or even in the book; I heard a lot about this in the spring, but the furor seems to have died down since.

M: Wait, is the controversy that groups that are supposedly preaching tolerance and acceptance are targeting and being completely intolerant to someone who disagrees with their beliefs? Because if that’s not the “controversy”, then there isn’t any, since, as you said, the issue has no relevance to the movie, and last I checked people in this country are still free to donate to the causes they believe in, regardless of what you or I feel about them, or their level of political correctness and the prevailing winds of pop-culture.

E: Yes, but citizens of this country are also free to say “I won’t pay money for an entertainment if my money might end up going to a cause I don’t support.”  There’s nothing wrong with thinking about where your entertainment money goes – in fact, I think it’s a good thing.

M: Agreed, that is reasonable. It is not, however, controversy. Like I said, controversy would be a group proclaiming tolerance as their goal being intolerant of diverging opinions. McCarthyism isn’t ok as long as it’s done in the name of something you agree with.

E: Oh.  I see.  So people who ask for others to be tolerant of their lifestyles don’t get to complain when other people aren’t, because they should be tolerant of intolerance?  Impressive logic, bro.

M: No no, you misunderstand. I am asking that the people that want you to be tolerant of their beliefs are also tolerant of your beliefs, and don’t try to persecute people who disagree with them. That’s logic.

E: It’s something, anyway.

Casting By

E: An entertaining looking documentary about an unsung branch of the entertainment industry.

M: That’s definitely an area that could be a lot of fun to delve into.

E: I’ve heard there are campaigns to get casting directors their own Oscar category.  Whether that’s necessary or not, it’s still cool to consider the impact they make on a film’s success.

Dallas Buyers Club

E: Matthew McConaughey plays a rodeo cowboy/clown stricken with AIDS in the mid-80s, and so driven to join a group of fellow sufferers who smuggle experimental drugs in Mexico, thereby forced to confront his prejudices.  My So Called Life heartthrob Jared Leto plays a transgendered woman also diagnosed with AIDS.

M: Sounds fun! Will this be going to theaters, or direct to Comedy Central?

E: Hold on to that snark. I understand it’s full of drag queens – a big shock to butch McConaughey – so it probably is funny.

Diana

E: Put together Oscar bait Naomi Watts and Diana Princess of Wales, and you have a combination sure to gather attention.  This biopic focuses on the last years before the Princesses’ untimely death, her activism and her romance with Dr. Hasnat Khan (the marvelous Naveen Andrews, currently slumming in the hammy Once Upon A Time In Wonderland).

M: Am I the only person who is not only not obsessed with the British royals, but not interested in them in the least? Judging by the recent wedding and baby media blitz, I think I may be.

E: I’m sure many American men are generally less obsessed than you’re assuming.  Either way, this movie had buzz for Watts’ performance, and the British television veterans in the supporting cast please (Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson) but the critics basically revile it.

M: I wonder if the Brits are upset that an Aussie is playing their beloved fallen princess?

Free Birds

E: November’s first animated feature is – as you might guess – about turkeys looking for their freedom before the carnage of Thanksgiving.

M: Oh, not just looking for their freedom, but using a time machine to go back to the first Thanksgiving to try to “take turkey off the menu”. As usual, there is a stellar voice cast, headlined by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, but also featuring family favorite Colm Meany. It looks fun to me.

E: Me too.

Last Love

M: A good cast takes on the challenge of a story of an elderly man, played by Michael Caine, who sparks a friendship with a young, lonely woman played by Clemence Poesy, aka Fleur Delacour. He helps heal her of her loneliness and lack of belonging, she helps him over the loss of his wife and the rift with his son, played by Weeds‘ Justin Kirk, with whom it appears she becomes involved with romantically. Caine’s daughter is played by family favorite Gillian “Dana Scully” Anderson.

E: Michael Caine.  I don’t know.  He’s in a lot of good movies but I can’t say I like him, either.

M: He’s in a lot of good movies, but he’s in a lot of bad movies, too. Because he never turns down anything, back from his days starting out and struggling, he swore he just wanted to be a “working actor”, and would take any work he was offered. Talked about it in an acceptance speech one time, I think for Cider House Rules. So his presence is definitely not a barometer for whether something will be good.

Last Vegas

E: For those who didn’t get enough geriatric romance and highjinx with the last “last” offering, the studios offer this romp, starring newly single (or maybe not?) Michael Douglas.

M: There has been a veritable media monsoon of commercials for this, and I have to say, it holds up to it. I’m not sick of the ads, and some of the moments in them (Morgan Freeman “jumping” a few inches out of his window, De Niro being the only one that can handle some hard liquor they are drinking, a hung over either Kline or Douglas saying “everything’s spinning” while on a spinning bed) make me laugh repeatedly. It’s quite possible that this will flop, but with the cast and the moments in the ads, I think it could well be a good rental.

E: Seriously?

M: YES! How can you see the clip of the other three keeling over after drinking what I assume is a strong glass of Scotch, and De Niro standing straight, looking at the glass and saying “not bad” very matter-of-factly and not think it has the potential to be a good Netflix rental? With all the crap you watch just because someone involved with it might get nominated for an Oscar…

E: I don’t have time for unfunny crap like this.  Exactly.

Man of Tai Chi

E: Keanu Reeves in a kung fu movie?  Come on, you gotta love it.

M: Not only is he in it, but it’s his directorial debut! Based on the teaser I saw for it, it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Probably campy fun, but fun.

E: And Keanu Reeves knows from camp classics.

M: And will lead the way for his bigger budget martial arts film, 47 Ronin, coming out in December.

Mr. Nobody

E: Existential drama about the possible lives a young boy might lead were he to choose to live with his father or his mother.  Starring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger and Rhys Ifans.

M: I’ve seen the ad for this many times On Demand… it looks very confusing. And the main character’s name is Nemo. No offense to the writer, but after Finding Nemo, that name just doesn’t work in something dramatic anymore.

E: It does mean “no man” (Mr. Nobody) in Latin, though.

Sweet Dreams

E: This documentary about Rwanda’s only all female drumming corps seems like an emotional power house.  Made up of Tutsis and Hutus, the musical group provides a place for both sides of the 1994 genocide to heal.

M: Oooohhh… that sounds good. As you know, and as I will mention again below, I am a sucker for African music.

November 8th

Thor: The Dark World

E: If you didn’t hear the fanboys squealing last week over the latest trailer for the second outing in the Thor series, you either have no fanboy friends or you’re not on the internet.

M: I have heard the squealing, including from my Avengers-loving kids. And I love seeing Padme punch Loki in the face.

E: What can we say?  You’ve seen the commercials.  Loki and Thor working together – maybe. It looks fun and fantastic.  If you like comic book movies, this is for you.

About Time

E: This Richard Curtis rom-com rolls out in a few theaters on the first, but should be everywhere on the 8th.  And I cannot wait for it.  Writer/director Curtis, if you’ll remember, has brought us most of the great British romantic comedies of the 90s, notably Love, ActuallyFour Wedding and Funeral and Notting Hill.  After making Hugh Grant’s career, he might just be doing the same for Domhall Gleason, perhaps best known as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter film series.  His love interest?  Rachel McAdams, who knows a thing or two about cinematic love stories herself.  And then there’s Bill Nighy costarring as Bill Weasley’s father.  But even that’s not all.

M: You know we previewed this when it came out in limited release, right?

E: Despite that early scheduling, it didn’t actually make it out in limited release before November 1st, and it looks so good I figured people should be reminded of it.  So can we get back to the story?  Which is – hereditary time travel.

M: And looks fun, with potential sadness mixed in. Kind of like a fun romantic comedy, with a bit of the brilliant Ray Bradbury story A Sound of Thunder mixed in.

The Book Thief

M: I thought that we’d already discussed this, too, but couldn’t find it in our archives. I must have just gotten excited by the trailer previously, as it looks like it could be excellent. It has some heavyweights in Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, and combined with a plot of a girl stealing books to read them to a young Jewish man her family is hiding from the Nazis during WWII, it makes for a movie that is sure to be on the Oscar radar. Limited release this weekend, it won’t be fully release until next year. E knows how much I love that Oscar-baiting trick.

E: I agree, that’s incredibly annoying; even if I know why they do it (so it’s fresh in voters minds at a key time), but it makes life tricky for people like me who want to see all the Oscar films.  This looks absolutely gorgeous, though, and is based on the acclaimed best seller of the same name.  I’m really excited about this. At least from the trailer, it looks like we might be able to bring older kids to see it, too.  It might be a very inspiring movie for your 13 year old daughter, for example.

M: Oh, I totally agree.

How I Live Now

E: This movie might just be catnip to a certain kind of viewer, and I might just be one of them.

M: Based on nothing but those 20 words, I am going to say that I am probably not.

E: Hard edged American teen (Saoirse Ronan) sent to live in the idyllic English country-side, softened by first love and then hardened again by nuclear war.  It looks like a well made version of a typical teen apocalyptic novel, and it is.

M: Ok, that is not anything like what I expected you to say next. No Lithuanian director? No Vietnamese subtitles? No depressing tale of abuse, without the redemption of overcoming it? Hmmm, that actually sounds like something I might watch.

E: This month is way too crowded for me to even think about seeing this is the theater – heck, I haven’t seen the October movies I need to see yet – but seems like an excellent rental.

November 15th

The Best Man Holiday

M: 14 years between the original, The Best Man, and this sequel, but the main cast is back for a reunion.

E: The cast for this go around includes Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terence Howard, Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut, Saana Latham, Harold Perrineau, Eddie Cibrian and John Michael Higgins.

M: Many of whom I like, but not enough to get me to see this, without at least seeing the original first.

Sunlight Jr. 

E: Can’t get enough of Naomi Watts?  Say no more.  Just look for this indie about a convenience story clerk and her disabled boyfriend (Matt Dillon) struggling to make ends meet.  The outline looks grim – she get pregnant, losses her job, they get evicted, the struggle with his alcoholism, jealousy, and the violent man who prompts it.  So, awesome.

M: See, THIS is the kind of thing I expected from your opening line about How I Live Now!

E: You mistake me, Matt.  I might see this if it was nominated for an Oscar, and heck, I might even be floored and moved by it if forced to go, but that doesn’t mean I’d seek it out for fun.  Or that it sounds appealing to me at all, because it really does not.

November 22nd

Delivery Man

E: Vince Vaughn has accidentally spawned several hundred children in this sperm donation comedy.

M: Well, it’s not really his accident. Apparently, he donated to a “bank”, and they accidentally gave from his donation… over and over and over. Five hundred and thirty or so times. And he finds out, and tries to build some form of relationship with them. Not sure why they need that, especially the one that’s an NBA player.

E: What does that mean?  He’s too rich or successful to want to meet his biological father?

M: Not to meet him, no, of course that makes sense. But to have a deep need for a father figure, which is at least what the ads make it look like Vaughn is trying to reach out to them to provide? Not as much. Remember, these are from a fertility clinic, so most of the kids would have been raised by at least fairly stable families that were able to pay for that treatment.

E: Agreed, although I guess money doesn’t make for stability.

M: But hey, it wouldn’t make for much of a movie if he said “oh, ok, they can go on with their lives without me ever making myself known,” would it?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

E: Or, as it ought to be known, Catching Fire.

M: An here’s the midnight trip to the theater. My 13 year old, who devoured these books a while back, has been begging to go to ANY midnight show for two years. Part of her birthday present was that I would take her to the midnight show of this. Now, before you laud me too much for my selflessness… *pausing for you all to stop laughing* …I enjoyed the books, too, and think the movie could be fantastic. I am less enthused for the third installment, based on serious issues with that book, but for this one? Yeah, I’m all in.

E: Have I mentioned to you, dear readers, how much I wish that Catching Fire was the book split into two parts rather than the suicidally grim Mockingjay?

M: I really am not looking forward to that being split into two movies. If anything, they should have split up parts of Catching Fire and Mockingjay and combined them into the fourth movie. Why do money-grabbing studios not realize that this is a bad idea? I mean, I *should* be super-exicted for the next installment of The Hobbit, coming out next month, as the sections of the book they will be covering have some of my favorite parts. The problem is, chopping it up into three parts, and then having the first part be so thin that it felt like butter scraped over too much bread, has me so put off that I am not mustering the emotion that I want to for it. I can’t imagine pulling out any excitement for a two movie smorgasbord of a book that, the further removed I get from reading the books that preceded it, the more I dislike.

E: Yep.  I’m with you.  And unlike The Hobbit, Mockingjay isn’t exactly a romp in the countryside.  But at any rate, I’m super excited to see this movie and I’m very very curious what new director Francis Lawrence will bring to the story.  We’re big fans of Gary Ross, so losing him was a bit of a blow.

M: That reminds me, one of the reasons that we love Ross is because of the fabulous Seabiscut, which was based on a book by Laura Hillenbrand. I also love, Love, LOVE Hillenbrand’s more recent book, Unbroken, which all our readers should read. That is now being made into a movie, being written by the Coen brothers, directed by Angelina Jolie (seriously!?!), and will co-star (not in the lead role, but this is the other way I justify including this blatant plug) About Time star Domhall Gleason. How’s that for tying things together?

E: Dizzying.

Philomena

E: With the help of reporter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), an the title character (Judi Dench) tries to locate the son taken away from and shipped off to America for adoption fifty years before.  Based on the true story documented in the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, written by the real life Martin Sixsmith. As directed by Stephen Frears, it looks funny and moving in the best way.

M: Dench and Coogan are very good.

E: That’s all you have to say?  I suppose it is British and so to near your reviled royals…

M: Would you prefer I say “I don’t have time for unfunny crap like this”? And I don’t revile them, I simply don’t care.

November 25th

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor 3D

M: Ok E, you can’t throw something like this in here and not put any info with it. What is this!!!

E: A celebration of Dr. Who’s 50 years, of course! It’s the one night theatrical release of the BBC special film, which includes extra content for theaters (and, of course, 3D).  David Tenant, Matt Smith, Billy Piper and Jenna Coleman are listed as stars.

M: Not sure I’ll make it to the theater for it, but woo-hoo!

November 27th

Black Nativity

E: I know what you’re thinking, but this contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ classic play might not quite be it.  It’s a Christmas story for sure, but about the reconnection of a family rather than a birth in a manager.  Academy Award winners Forrest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson lead a cast that includes Angela Basset, Tyrese Gibson and Mary J, Blige.

M: I don’t think you did know what I was thinking.

E: Ain’t that the truth!  In case you are interested in the actual plot, a struggling single mom (Hudson) sends her son home to her estranged parents for the Christmas season.  Her father (Whitaker) is a Reverend putting on a Christmas extravaganza at his church.  Music and heart-warming ensue.

Frozen

E: Looking for something to do with the kids over Thanksgiving weekend?  Well, here you are.  There’s a weird/cute snowman.  There’s a medieval (?) village and mythic forces trying to keep it in perpetual winter.

M: How is it that you’re not leading with Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell, as the lead voice? Or that Alan Tyduk (of Firefly and Dodgeball) is another of the main voices? Or that there’s a reindeer or something that acts like a dog, and looks pretty funny.

E: Actually, I hadn’t checked the voice cast, though that makes me quite happy now that you’ve pointed it out.  I’ve seen posters with the snowman at my local multiplex for months; the people don’t really look like they belong in the same movie with him, but I’m willing to be won over.  It’s one of our fun traditions, seeing the latest animated movie on Thanksgiving weekend (started when I was a teen taking C to see The Little Mermaid) and I hope this one will be worth the trip.

Homefront

M: Jason Statham squares off against James Franco in an utterly stupid looking suspense-action movie about an undercover cop and his elementary school daughter who get mixed up with a backwoods, small-town meth dealer and some local’s bully of a son. The set up for the plot, at least in the trailer, is so mind-numbingly bad, and the remained of it so action movie-formula, it make me wonder how actors of the quality, or at least stature, of Statham, Franco, Kate Bosworth, Winona Ryder and Clancy Brown got involved. Especially after having just read through the list of actors that turned down both the male and female lead roles in the next movie, Oldboy.

E: Oh, I don’t know.  There’s Franco – who is weird and unpredictable – but other than him, I don’t think the rest of the supporting cast can write their own tickets.   Does it actually surprise you that Clancy Brown would appear in a bad movie?  Like Winona Ryder has so much going on right now that she can afford to be choosy?

M: I’ll admit, I was mostly thinking of Franco and Bosworth, also the quantity of big or at least big-ish stars for something that looks so bad.

Oldboy

M: Spike Lee directing Josh Brolin in a remake of a South Korean tale of of a man who is kidnapped, framed for his wife’s murder, then after 20 years released to seek vengeance, try to save his daughter, and maybe do some dirty work for the people who kidnapped him. Looks like he may also decapitate Samuel L Jackson along the way. Looks bloody, twisted, and no fun at all.

E: Blech.  Not a big fan of Brolin to begin with, and you’re doing an excellent job of not selling the rest of it.

M: Then my work here is done. Let’s move on to the next film.

Out of the Furnace

E: Another grim tale of the working class with a terrific cast.  Christian Bale stars as a steel mill worker who spends his off time caring for his terminally ill father, when his life is upending when his Iraq war vet/criminal brother (Casey Affleck) disappears.  In true Batman style, Bale seeks vengeance.  Also starring Forest Whitaker, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe.

M: Poor Casey Affleck, almost always the screw up brother who gets in trouble.

E: Hopefully his real life is much calmer than his type-casting would suggest!

November 29th

Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom

E: Here’s the second of this fall’s two Mandela (related) biopics, this one starring the amazing Idris Elba as the inspiring leader.

M: As our readers could probably tell in the past preview with the Winnie Mandela story, I’m a sucker for Mandela bio-pics, or just about any story about the fight against apartheid, going back to The Power of One. Throw K’naan’s “Waving Flag” over the trailer? You’ve totally got me.

E: I love that song so much; there’s generally something about African choral music that I find incredibly moving.  The Power of One soundtracks sits very high on my all-time favorite list. Which makes me think; for anyone who can’t wait, Invictus is an amazing Mandela/anti-apartheid story, too.

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3 comments on “November 2013 Movie Preview

  1. lizteabee says:

    Orson Scott Card is not just anti-gay marriage. He’s anti- gay people. He wants to criminalize homosexuality. He spends a tremendous amount of his personal fortune advocating for these beliefs. In no way, shape, or form does it make me a hypocrite to refuse to contribute to his personal fortune.

  2. […] Oddly, we discussed this briefly last month, when it was scheduled to open on November 27th. It got pushed back. I’m presuming […]

  3. […] I categorically reject that statement; you just have blinders […]

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