So after a long hot summer, the flames of the autumnal leaves now pave the pathways. The days are growing shorter, the nights are drawing in, and in your local picture house, something magical is about to begin. Though it may still be a few months away, awards season is once again upon us. This month it kicks off in earnest, with two of the biggest heavy weights, Interstellar and The Imitation Game, finally hitting UK cinemas. Be sure to check below for our first word on them both. But that’s just a taster of the melange of magnificent movies hitting the screen this month, with James Gandolfini giving his final bow in The Drop, London Film Festival favourite Leviathan, and Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey all coming to a big screen near you in November. So what are you still doing up here? Scroll down, and see what delights await you.
November’s Top Pick
Interstellar (Dir. Christopher Nolan) – Released November 7th
Perhaps that should actually read ‘top pick of the year’, because it’s fair to say that Christopher Nolan’s latest mind-bending blockbuster is considered by many to be the cinematic event of 2014. Ever since Interstellar’s initial inception, blogs have been ablaze with speculation, with people seemingly intent on dissecting every morsel of information that Nolan has teased them with.
What we do know for sure is that the film, written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, takes place in the near future, when Earth has been devastated by drought and famine. However, through a rip in the space-time continuum, a group of explorers, led by Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper, are sent on an interstellar mission to find a planet where life can be sustained, before we finally succumb to extinction.
Given Nolan’s aptitude for ambition, it’s probably best to go in to Interstellar knowing little more than that, which is why I’m going to stop short of waxing lyrical about all the different plot points and hypothetical ideas that myself and many others have discerned from the trailers. Instead, I’m going to wet your appetites with the initial thoughts of our writer Stephen, who describes it as “frequently sublime and occasionally ridiculous, the vast scale sometimes dwarfs intimate moments, but it rarely fails to impress”. He goes on to say that Interstellar is “the most flawed film Nolan’s made in a while, and perhaps also the most brilliant”.
As has already been said, this is a big month in the Oscar race. Practically guaranteed a nomination for Best Actor is Benedict Cumberbatch, whose indelible performance as Alan Turing is at the core of Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game (Nov. 14th). I was fortunate to see the film at the London Film Festival last month, and described it in my review as “a stirring account of Turing’s extraordinary wartime accomplishments, which is almost as well constructed as the mathematician’s own code-breaking machine”.
Also in with a shot of an Oscar nom, although tragically of the posthumous kind, is James Gandolfini, who inhabits the gangster role for one last bow in The Drop (Nov. 14th), a tale of crime and corruption that’s penned by Dennis Lehane. The melancholic mind of Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan meanwhile, is doubtless in with chance of securing a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film with Winter Sleep (Nov. 21st), a long-gestating look at the male psyche that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and received wide-spread acclaim when it played in London.
Another big-hitter in London was Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan (Nov. 7th), a superbly muted and surprisingly funny drama about one man’s attempts to take on a corrupt political system. Perhaps hoping to pander to the more sentimental Oscar voter is Paul Haggis’ Third Person (Nov. 14th), which interlocks three love stories from three different cities. If nothing else, it’ll make a nice change to see Liam Neeson having to find a way to solve his problems that doesn’t involve mass homicide.
Even this month’s comedy output has a tinge of the dramatic about it. Just look at The Skeleton Twins (Nov. 7th), which follows Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as estranged siblings who reunite in order to salvage their relationship after they both coincidentally cheat death on the same day. Or Say When (Nov. 7th), a life-affirming comedy starring Keira Knightly and Chloe Grace Mortez that sees the former going through quarter-life crisis after her boyfriend proposes, and the latter as her prepubescent saviour. Less of a rescuer and more of an undefeatable enemy is Maggie Smith to Kevin Kline in My Old Lady (Nov. 21st), a highly serviceable directorial debut from playwright Israel Horovitz that’s sprinkled with soft humour and great central performances.
For those who crave something a bit zanier, be sure to check out What We Do In The Shadows (Nov. 21st), a Kiwi comedy that once more harnesses the vampire formula and then subverts it, introducing us to a set of vamps who not only struggle to find a decent meal, but also have to deal with making sure they pay their rent and keeping the house tidy while overcoming inevitable flatmate conflicts.
If it’s something big and boisterous you’re after though, then Horrible Bosses 2 (Nov. 28th) should have you covered. That’s right, Dale, Kurt, and Nick are back once more, hoping to start their own business, but going about it in entirely the wrong way. With Christoph Waltz hopefully bringing some added gravitas, this ought to be as fun and amusing as its predecessor.
Surely the one thriller that has us all practically salivating this month is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Nov. 20th), the penultimate part in this superb set of adaptations of Susan Collins’ novels. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss now finds herself in the middle of a war she may not be able to win against the evil President Snow. Though many have questioned the creative reasoning behind the decision to split the final book into two films, it must be said that the trailer looks simply astonishing.
His days as Bond may be behind him, but Pierce Brosnan still, at least, looks the part in Roger Donaldson’s The November Man (Nov. 7th). Here Brosnan plays an ex-CIA operative (is there any other cinematic kind) forced out of retirement on a personal mission against his one time pupil Luke Bracey. Meanwhile, Idris Elba looks to have relinquished the shadow of Nelson Mandela for his latest film No Good Deed (Nov. 21st), which sees him playing an escaped convict who begins to terrorise a women who’s home alone with her two young daughters. With a short-running time and a simple premise, this should hopefully provide you with a decent adrenaline shot.
As if Interstellar wasn’t enough, this month also gives you the opportunity to see Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (Nov. 28th) on the big screen as part of the BFI’s on-going Sci-Fi season. No matter how great Nolan’s latest is, it probably wouldn’t be here without 2001, a film that continues to define a whole genre through its intricate story of man vs. machine, its extraordinary visuals that continue to hold up in the modern age, and a thunderous score that evokes so much awe and inspiration that its impossible to not be swept along.
For those who love the psychically comic lunacy of Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin, then the BFI’s Jacques Tati season is for you. Central to the program is the extended re-release of Tati’s highly regarded masterpiece Playtime (Nov. 7th), a gloriously satirical story starring Tati as his much-loved onscreen alter ego Mr Hulot, who is sent to contact an American official in Paris, but winds up lost in a maze modern architecture. Visually impressive and side-splittingly hilarious, don’t miss the opportunity to see this comic gem on the big screen.
Best Of The Rest
There is a succession of great documentaries hitting the cinemas this month. For devout cinephiles, Life Itself (Nov. 14th) is a rare opportunity to examine the life of renowned film critic Roger Ebert, a universal voice of culture who tragically died of cancer in April last year. Another artist under the spotlight this month is Britain’s beloved Hockney (Nov. 28th). Here director Randall Wright combines home-footage with testimonies to create a kaleidoscopic image of a man who harnesses his passion and zeal in a quest to constantly broaden his horizons.
For something slightly more hard-hitting, Ben Cotner & Ryan White’s The Case Against 8 (Nov. 7th) is a film that demands and also deserves your time. The focus is California’s Proposition 8 and the aftermath of the events that led to it, which now sees the state’s Declaration of Rights define marriage as only “between a man and a woman”.
Nine years since his directorial debut, Tommy Lee Jones is back behind the camera and also in front of it for The Homesman (Nov. 21st), a hypnotic journey through the Old West that sees Jones team up with Hilary Swank’s pioneer woman to escort three insane woman from Nebraska to Iowa.
Finally for this month, if you’re looking for something to entertain those young kiddlywinks of yours, then surely Paddington (Nov. 28th) should be your first port of call. This British update of the childhood favourite sees Paddington arrive in London from darkest Peru, befriend the Brown family and find himself at the mercy of a museum taxidermist, all the while indulging in as many marmalade sandwiches as possible.