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It’s an annual tradition: when the beginning of prestige movie season collides with television trying to capture the eyes of audiences retreating indoors with the arrival of colder weather there’s almost too much to watch. That’s certainly the case this November. On the movie front, the month offers everything from new Marvel projects to a hotly anticipated new Paul Thomas Anderson movie. When it comes to television, we’re getting everything from a sweeping fantasy epic to a darkly comic podcast adaptation. So let’s get into it starting with a story of revenge in the Old West.
The Harder They Fall (Netflix, November 3)
There are vanishingly few movie Westerns focusing on Black characters, which doesn’t just do a disservice to the genre’s possibilities, it misrepresents the past. For his feature debut, director Jeymes Samuel (who performs music under the name The Bullitts) looked to historical figures for inspiration, or at least borrowed some names from history to craft the story of a gunfighter (Jonathan Majors) who assembles a team to take out the villain (Idris Elba) who murdered his parents years ago. The all-star cast also includes Zazie Beetz, Regina King, and Lakeith Stanfield. Watch on Netflix here.
Marvel’s Eternals (Theaters, November 5)
Last year saw the release of Chloe Zhao’s lyrical Best Picture winner Nomadland. But can Zhao do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe what she did for van-dwelling middle-aged drifters? That question hangs over this adaptation of an eccentric, cosmically scaled Jack Kirby comic starring Gemma Chan, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and others as super-powered immortal guardians of the Earth who face their biggest challenge in centuries. See tickets and showtimes here.
Spencer (Theaters, November 5)
Pablo Larraín’s 2016 film Jackie offered a harrowing, intensely focused look at the life of Jackie Kennedy in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. With Spencer, the director, working from a script by Stephen Knight (Locke, Locked Down) turns his attention to another historical figure at a turning point. Here Kristen Stewart plays Princess Diana in 1991, living at the frayed ends of her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). Early reviews have raved about Stewart and speculated about her chances of winning an Oscar. See tickets and showtimes here.
Dexter: New Blood (Showtime, November 7)
Time for a second chance: seemingly no one liked the series finale of Dexter, which brought the story of the serial killer’s serial killer to a close after eight seasons. Or so it seemed. Michael C. Hall reprises his role for what’s being billed as a miniseries set 10 years later. Will the revival feature Dexter living in quiet retirement? Don’t count on it. Watch with a free trial to Showtime here.
Passing (Theaters / Netflix, November 10)
One of the standouts of this year’s Sundance, this first feature directed by Rebeca Hall adapts a short, revered novel by Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen about the dangerous fuzziness of the racial divide in early 20th century New York. Shot in striking black and white, the film stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as two childhood friends who’ve chosen to live on different sides of that divide, the former starting a life as the influential wife of a Harlem doctor (Andre Holland), the latter obscuring her past and marrying a wealthy white businessman (Alexander Skarsgard). Watch on Netflix here.
Belfast (Theaters, November 12)
Also using black-and-white to capture a bygone age, Kenneth Branagh’s latest is a semi-autobiographical story of growing up in the tumult of sixties Belfast. Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, and Ciarán Hinds play various family members surrounding Buddy (Jude Hill), a kid doing his best to make sense of the money troubles and political strife surrounding him.
tick, tick… BOOM! (Theaters, November 12 / Netflix, November 19)
It’s been a big year for Lin-Manuel Miranda, one that saw the belated debut of the film version of his breakthrough musical In the Heights and gave him a starring role in the animated film Vivo. With tick, tick… BOOM!, Miranda makes his directorial debut, adapting Rent creator Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical about trying to find success in the music business. Andrew Garfield stars. (This doesn’t mark the end of Miranda’s big year, either. See below.)
The Shrink Next Door (Apple TV+, November 12)
Michael Showalter and Jesse Peretz direct this adaptation of a true-crime podcast of the same name about a psychiatrist (Paul Rudd) who crosses one boundary after another while treating an impressionable patient (Will Ferrell). The supporting cast includes Kathryn Hahn and Casey Wilson, a combination of talent that suggests the series will try to find the comedic elements of a dark story. Watch on Apple TV here.
The Power of the Dog (Theaters, November 17)
Jane Campion makes her return to feature filmmaking with this adaptation of a 1967 novel by Thomas Savage starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a commanding rancher in 1920s Montana whose personality stands in stark contrast to that of his brother Jesse Plemons. Kirsten Dunst co-stars and the film has earned Campion some of the best reviews of her career (which is saying something).
Bruised (Theaters, November 17 / Netflix, November 24)
Making her debut behind the camera, Halle Berry both stars in and directs this sports drama in which she plays Jackie Justice (great name), an MMA fighter drawn out of retirement to fight a much younger opponent — a drama that overlaps with her own, unexpected troubles as a parent. Berry clearly threw herself into the project. At one point, shooting had to shut down for a week when she injured herself shooting a fight scene.
The Sex Lives of College Girls (HBO Max, November 18)
In an earlier era of HBO this might have been the title of a lurid, Taxicab Confessions-like reality series. Instead, and more promisingly, it’s a new series created by Mindy Kaling in which four college freshmen navigate love and sex (and presumably education) at an exclusive New England school. Watch on HBO Max here.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Theaters, November 19)
This sequel to the 1984 hit in which a quartet of paranormal scientists saved New York from a grave supernatural threat (and one weirdly amorous ghost) moves the action to Oklahoma. There the grandchildren of Egon Spengler (the character played by the late Harold Ramis) battle some spirits of their own. The legacy theme goes beyond the plot. It’s directed by Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan Reitman. Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon co-star (and there might be some cameos, too).
C’Mon, C’Mon (Theaters, November 19)
Joaquin Phoenix’s first film since winning a Best Actor Oscar for Joker finds him headed in a totally different direction. Here he plays a radio journalist named Johnny who’s unexpectedly asked to care for his nephew Jesse (Woody Norman) when Jesse’s mother (Gaby Hoffman) gets called away. With Beginners and 20th Century Women director Mike Mills proved there are few better at balancing humor with sensitive drama and his latest looks to continue the trend. (Also: it’s shot in black-and-white, joining Belfast and Passing to make a trend.)
King Richard (HBO Max, November 19)
What kind of upbringing produces not one but two tennis legends? That’s at the heart of this biopic of Richard Williams, whose hands-on approach to parenting and coaching provided a path forward for his daughters Venus and Serena. (You might have heard of them.) Will Smith plays Richard, who has to deal with racism and philosophical differences while choosing a non-traditional path for his daughters. The film earned instant acclaim at festivals this fall and seems likely to put Smith back into Oscar talk for the first time in a few years. Watch on HBO Max here.
The Wheel of Time (Prime Video, November 19)
Television has been searching for the next Game of Thrones pretty much since the premiere of the first Game of Thrones. Amazon thinks it might have found it with this series adapting Robert Jordan’s sprawling fantasy series. If nothing else, they don’t need to worry about running out of material. The completed series spans 14 books, plus a prequel novel. Rosamund Pike leads the cast as Moiraine, a magic-user who thinks she might have found a chosen one. Pike’s the standout name in a cast of relative unknowns, but who had heard of Kit Harrington or Emilia Clarke before Game of Thrones? Watch with a free trial to Amazon Prime here.
Hawkeye (Disney+, November 24)
The MCU’s 2021 television expansion continues with this Avengers spin-off starring Jeremy Renner as the ace archer Hawkeye. But the title’s a little deceptive. Inspired by writer Matt Fraction’s winning run on the comics, it also features Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, Hawkeye’s protege who wants to take on the name for herself. (Maybe Hawkeyes would have been more accurate?) Set in New York, it’s Marvel’s first attempt at a street-level superhero series since the run of Netflix shows ran their course a couple of years ago. Watch on Disney+ here.
Encanto (Theaters, November 24)
Lin-Manuel Miranda provides the songs for Disney’s latest animated feature, the story of a Colombian family with magical gifts. Well, most of them have magical gifts anyway. Stephanie Beatriz provides the voice of Mirabel, who’s charged with saving her family in spite of her seeming lack of powers.
House of Gucci (Theaters, November 24)
Speaking of busy years, this is director Ridley Scott’s second film in a few weeks after the slept-on The Last Duel. (Catch up with it when you can.) A fact-based tale of crime and high fashion, the film features an all-star cast that includes Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, and Al Pacino as various members of the Gucci family who, in 1995, have to deal with a murder in their midst. See tickets and showtimes here.
The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+, November 25)
Originally slated as a feature film, Peter Jackson’s look at the making of the Beatles’ Let it Be album has been expanded into a three-part documentary drawing on piles of previously unseen footage originally created in 1969 as part of Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s (now impossible to find) 1970 documentary Let it Be. With Summer of Soul, 2021 had already become a banner year for from-the-vaults music footage, and this look at a great band toward the end of its existence looks likely to continue that trend. Watch on Disney+ here.
Licorice Pizza (Theaters, November 26)
Paul Thomas Anderson returns to a bygone era of California history with this coming-of-age story starring Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (son of Philip Seymour Hoffman) as a couple of teens fumbling their way toward adulthood in the San Fernando Valley of 1973. A new PTA film doesn’t necessarily need any more selling points, though a cast that includes Tom Waits and Bradley Cooper (as hairdresser-turned-movie producer Jon Peters) and an amazing trailer don’t hurt.
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