The later on into the year we get, the more stacked the movie release schedule seems to become. We’re rapidly approaching the critical darling season and the relentless wave of holiday movies, but November, the bridge to get us there, is equally as loaded with quality films this year. From raucous crowd pleasers, to low-key indie movies and classic stories brought to life again, November 2017 promises us hits week after week. You best start budgeting yourself for Christmas now, because November wants your money more than Tony from the Mumbai call centre claiming you’ve been in an accident that wasn’t your fault.
Murder on the Orient Express, dir. by Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Derek Jacobi, Olivia Colman.
Release date: November 3rd.
Look. At. That. Moustache.
OK, first things first, before I get sidetracked on the glorious creation that is Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot moustache, Murder on the Orient Express is one of the most highly anticipated releases for the rest of the year. The cast alone is nearly as impressive as Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot moustache, it’s a highly formidable team of veterans and newcomers meeting to make for a powerhouse combination that could rival an Oceans movie. Such a cast is required for source material of this stature, Agatha Christie’s titular crime novel from over 80 years ago still stands as a literary titan to this day, beloved and revered in equal measure as one of the finest works of detective fiction ever published, it is the Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot moustache of the genre. This will be the second big screen adaptation of Christie’s work, its first go was directed by legendary director Sidney Lumet and also featured a mega cast including Albert Finney, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins and Ingrid Bergman (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role)… no pressure then lads… But with a fantastic director like Branagh at the helm who relishes the costume drama and literary classics, a great cast and some rather lavish visuals, Murder on the Orient Express look more than capable of living up the high expectations set by Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot moustache.
Marjorie Prime, dir. by Michael Almereyda
Starring: Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, Stephanie Andujar.
Release date: November 10th.
From the extravagant and well trodden story to something a lot smaller and a lot less known, November delivers what could be one of the year’s top sci-fi movies in the form of Marjorie Prime. Every time it seems that the sci-fi genre has used up every new concept in the book, it brings us another new and fresh take, Marjorie Prime proudly continues this trend. The film tells the story of Marjorie (Lois Smith), who, through the use of a service which provides holographic projections of deceased loved ones, is able to spend time with a younger version of her late husband Walter (Jon Hamm). It’s clearly a more intimate and personal take on the sci-fi genre, one which should easily raise some thought-provoking threads; how much time should or could one devote to these projections? Are they the same as having a loved one back? Does it work as a coping mechanism? In addition to this exciting premise, the film has already received a rousing reception from those who have seen it. At the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, Marjorie Prime was praised by a jury for its “imaginative and nuanced depiction of the evolving relationship between humans and technology, and its moving dramatization of how intelligent machines can challenge our notions of identity, memory and mortality”, Smith herself has also been nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award in the Best Actress category. Expect to see director Michael Almereyda’s name pop up again soon, with Marjorie Prime he certainly seems to be one to watch.
Good Time, dir. by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie, Barkhad Abdi.
Release date: November 17th.
I’ll admit that I did miss this one at the London Film Festival, but all I heard about Benny and Josh Safdie’s fifth directorial effort from those who did see it was that it was great. Like his sparkly vampire lubby dubby co-star Kirsten Stewart, Robert Pattinson continues to shed the laborious shell of his Twilight reputation with numerous roles in the independent scene, Good Time, by many accounts, is his best yet. A heist-gone-wrong type movie, Good Time has been wowing audiences with its unique brand of charisma, break neck pacing and neon tinged style, it even played in contention for the prestigious Palme d’Or at this years Cannes film festival. With Oscar nominated actors like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi also on board for the ride, Good Time looks set to continue the hot streak of the American independent scene.
Ingrid Goes West, dir. by Matt Spicer
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff.
Release date: November 17th.
One of the lower profile movies I also missed at London, but make no mistake about it, Ingrid Goes West has been on the hotlist all year long. Having debuted back at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Matt Spicer’s feature-length directorial debut has made a name for itself as yet another indie upstart which boasts both a cool cast and a cool reputation. Ingrid Goes West tells the story of an obsessive social media stalker, Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), who moves to LA and inserts herself into the life of Instagram star Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) in an attempt to manufacture a friendship with the minor celebrity. What is immediately striking about Ingrid Goes West is the premise: in an age where we are obsessed with social media and its stars, this little indie movie seeks to provide the perfect encapsulation of its time and culture, both playing it for laughs and as a wake up call. It’s star Aubrey Plaza is on something of a 2011-2015 Emma Stone-like ascension; having broken big on Parks and Recreation, Plaza has proven herself to be a hugely entertaining and slyly charismatic actress who is frequently the best thing about any project she’s involved with, regardless of its quality. Ingrid Goes West is just the vehicle she needs to steer herself into super stardom and earn herself some well deserved plaudits, with a great ensemble to back her up, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell and Pom Klementieff being rising stars in their own rights, this could be the big break with new Queen of quirky needs.
Battle of the Sexes, dir. by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue.
Release date: November 24th.
The last few years has seen an important and much-needed rise in feminism and the campaign for total gender equality. This Month in Film is not and will never be a political piece, but it would seem that one cannot talk about a film like Battle of the Sexes in this day and age without addressing the world into which it is being released. The film centres on the famous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), King was world number one and Riggs was a former champion and serial hustler. As we live in a world in which the man with the most influence in Hollywood has secretly been abusing his power to commit acts of sexual harassment, abuse and assault, and the man in the most powerful job in the world can earn his role despite a number of similar allegations against him, a film like Battle of the Sexes is what we need. As much as this is a film about the remarkable, crowd-pleasing true story, this is also a powerful example of one woman fighting for the equality in which she so strongly believed and how she overcame the negativity in her way. Despite the 40+ years since the King/Riggs match, it’s as relevant of an event now as it was then. And I can’t think of two more perfect actors for the two roles; Stone, the reigning Best Actress, is a charming and fierce performer who many are claiming gives her best ever performance as King, and Carell, despite his endless charm, can play a detestable douche with ease, just look at The Way Way Back. Add in directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) and you have the perfect recipe for an uplifting, yet important tale of bravery, perseverance and, most importantly, equality – it’s 2017, Lord knows we need it.
EDITOR’S PICK: The Florida Project, dir. by Sean Baker
Starring: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe.
Release date: November 10th.
I have the benefit of hindsight this month, having seen The Florida Project back at the London Film Festival. This isn’t just one of the top films of November, this is one of the best films of 2017. A social realist piece, The Florida Project doesn’t rely on a gripping plot, flashy dialogue or loud, showy performances, it’s as gritty, grounded and human a film as you’ll see this year. It’s so incredibly simple – it’s literally just 110 minutes of a girl and her mother living in a motel in Florida – but its simplicity is its key. Humanist filmmaking is on the rise in the west – just look at Dunkirk as a wholly unconventional summer blockbuster – and The Florida Project is 2017’s biggest landmark in this development. Using non-professional actors and naturalistic dialogue and scene progression, it’s a potentially underwhelming and off-putting presentation for those who don’t know what they’re getting into (I overheard one more senior critic the next day deeming it underwhelming), but one that feels incredibly vital as an overall film. The Florida Project spotlights a harsh side of American society that is often overlooked, it doesn’t try to provide an explanation as to why it’s there (the 2008 financial crisis is hinted at in parts) but only that it exists and that it is reality for a number of people. It’s human, it’s heartbreaking and it’s magnificent, The Florida Project is a stunning achievement.