This Month in Film: November 2019

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Remember, remember, the films of November. Frankly, it’s hard not to with the number of big hitters landing in cinemas this month. The build-up to awards season is really starting to heat up now, with Christmas just on the horizon. Yes, put away the pumpkins and get the baubles ready. This year, we could mark the 15th November as the official advent of the Xmas season with the release of Paul’s Feig Last Christmas – based on the music of, you guessed it, George Michael. The Emilia Clarke starrer looks like it could warm the cockles of even the nastiest Grinch, but, don’t worry, if you’re not in the full Yuletide mood just yet there’s plenty else on offer. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are heading for the clouds in The Aeronauts, while Christian Bale and Matt Damon have their feet (or tires) firmly on the ground in racing drama Le Mans ’66. With all these stars out, you’d think it was the nativity. Here are the top picks for November…

THE BLOCKBUSTER: Frozen II, dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Release date: 22nd November

Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Evan Rachel Wood

Disney couldn’t let this box-office behemoth go, and can you blame them? Frozen‘s original release in 2013 created a huge cultural impact, propelling itself to become the highest-grossing animated film of all time (before The Lion King remake came along) off of the sheer power of Idina Menzel’s lungs. Although some of us maintain that Tangled is the better movie, it’s impossible to deny the indelible impression that Frozen made on audiences. It introduced that sense of ‘Disney magic’ to a whole new generation; some of those songs, ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ especially, haven’t stopped playing in young family households since 2013. The core voice cast are returning as expected, with a few fresh additions in the form of Evan Rachel Wood, Sterling K. Brown and Alfred Molina. Perhaps the most significant homecoming, however, is that of trio Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez and Christophe Beck. The husband-wife team are the songwriters extraordinaire behind the first film’s soundtrack, working alongside Beck on scoring duties. If they can land on another big earworm to match ‘Let It Go’, Frozen II should be well on its way to joining Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4 and The Lion King in Disney’s billion-dollar club for 2019. And they’ve still got Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to release in December. Business is truly booming for the House of Mouse.

THE ALTERNATIVE: The Irishman, dir. Martin Scorsese

Release date: 8th November (select cinemas), 27th November (streaming via Netflix)

Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Joe Pesci

What a brave new world we live in when a film has two separate release dates in the same region. Netflix’s unique distribution strategy is trying to achieve the best of both worlds: they have to release these films in theatres for a certain amount of time if they are going to qualify for awards contention, but keep them in cinemas too long and the exclusivity of their content – and their USP – comes into question. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find The Irishman in many UK cinemas outside of the major cities. Most of us will have to wait until it drops on the service proper at the end of the month, then watch it on our TV screens or – God forbid – smartphones. It’s a shame, as by all accounts Martin Scorsese’s latest is an elegiac, and wholly cinematic, piece of work. Reteaming the director with Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci (!), The Irishman, at a bladder-bursting 3 hours and 30 minutes long, is set to be the mob epic to end all mob epics.

Adapted from Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses, De Niro stars as the real-life Frank Sheeran, a World War II vet who became a hitman, developing shady associations with mafioso Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and corrupt union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino) – who infamously disappeared without a trace in 1975, a mystery that The Irishman will more than just touch upon. It’s a rare excursion for the filmmaker into a realm of visual effects wizardry, with several of the film’s characters being extensively de-aged for a significant period of the film’s lengthy runtime. Whether this convinces over the duration of the narrative remains to be seen, though it comes as no surprise that the film is one of Scorsese’s most expensive productions to date. It’s easy to bemoan Netflix for not making The Irishman a more accessible find on the big screens, but, with the big studios baulking at the director’s ambitious pitch, maybe we should just be grateful to the company that this reunion of iconic movie gangsters has been made at all.

Read our early review of The Irishman here

EDITOR’S PICK: Knives Out, dir. Rian Johnson

Release date: 29th November

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer

In a year where Adam Sandler released a movie literally called Murder Mystery, it feels like we haven’t had a good, original murder mystery in cinemas for quite some time. With Knives Out, Rian Johnson is taking us back to the classic Agatha Christie playbook – a warring family all come under suspicion when the affluent patriarch turns up dead – with an essential modern spin. Expect references to Twitter and Trump…and a hell of an ensemble cast. We did say there were plenty of stars on show this month. All under the investigation of whimsical Southern PI Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, enjoying his time off Bond), the eclectic Thrombey clan is composed of a wealth of acting talent, young and old. Toni Collette plays dumb whilst Chris Evans looks like he’s having a ball as a right slimy bastard, completely shedding the wholesome image of Captain America (language!). Meanwhile, screen legend Christopher Plummer shows up as the rich granddaddy with a knife in his back, and there’s a little bit of Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford and Lakeith Stanfield thrown in for good measure. Johnson clearly has people queueing up to work with him. Best known now as the director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one of the most divisive blockbusters in recent memory, he’s probably quite chuffed to be playing in less sacred ground once again. Knives Out is his baby after all, having penned the script solo, a homage to a genre quite close to his heart. If the question is ‘whodunnit?’, it’s Johnson all the way.

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Film Editor 2019/20. Enjoys classic Simpsons, R.E.M. and the MCU.

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