After taking a peek at what’s to come this November, there’s no denying that we’re fully in “the thick of it” when it comes to prestige film releases. Many festival darlings such as “Spencer” and “The Power of the Dog” are making their debut this month, while other slightly under the radar but still celebrated titles will be premiering as well.
Alongside the heavy lifting of some of these awards-friendly titles, there’s also plenty by way of blockbuster releases and easy escapism, from the latest Marvel release “Eternals” to the Netflix/Dwayne Johnson action film “Red Notice.” There will always be gems found in any month (and certainly films to almost always catch up on). Still, there’s no denying that November feels as if the industry as a whole has its foot on the accelerator, as every high-profile film attempts for the spotlight.
“The Harder They Fall“
Consisting of an impressively stacked cast including Regina King, Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, and Zazie Beetz, “The Harder They Fall” is directed by first-time feature filmmaker Jeymes Samuel and produced by Jay-Z. Known for his work as a musician, the director takes a new approach with his upcoming twist on the Western and revenge thriller genre. Our critic who saw it at the 2021 BFI London Film Festival wrote, “When it rides off into the sunset, what you’re left with is a diverse, reimagined fable of iniquity, holy retribution, and comeuppance that is as entertaining as it is surprisingly soulful.”
Release Date: November 3 on streaming via Netflix
“The Beta Test“
Starring and directed by Jim Cummings (“Thunder Road“) and PJ McCabe, “The Beta Test” follows a soon-to-be-married Hollywood agent who receives a mysterious letter for an anonymous sexual encounter, soon becoming ensnared in a world of lying, infidelity, and digital data. Virginia Newcomb and Jessie Barr also star in this barbed look at Hollywood, accountability, and anxiety of being known. Our critic who saw the film at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival wrote, “Cummings’ trademark storm of combustible nervous energy comes to Hollywood and turns from dark comedy into an anxiety horror based on the terror of being outed as a fraud and the fear of cancellation.”
Release Date: November 5 in theaters via IFC Films
One of the more buzzed-about films of the season, “Spencer,” gives actress Kristen Stewart room to shine as she tackles the role of the iconic Princess Dianna. Directed by Pablo Larraín (“Ema,” “Jackie“), who has made a name for himself for his films that focus on women with complex inner lives, the film decides to focus on one particular moment of her life. The film is set over the Christmas holidays in 1991 when, while staying with the royal family at Sandringham House, Princess Diana decides to leave Prince Charles. Our critic highlighted the score from Jonny Greenwood and Stewart’s performance, in particular, writing, “..As possibly the only actor at work right now whose own image is also such a paradoxical mixture of radiance and reticence – there is no one who so strongly projects shyness as Stewart – to have her play the most famous person ever to have so famously hated fame, is already genius-level gamesmanship.”
Release Date: November 5 in theaters via NEON
The latest film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Eternals,” directed by Academy Award-winning Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland,” “The Rider“), introduces a host of new faces and names to the superhero world we’ve become so familiar with. The story follows the Eternals, a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers who have lived secretive lives on earth for centuries and must reunite to battle the threat of Deviants. The cast is unanimously impressive, led by Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Don Lee, Bryan Tyree Henry, and many more.
Release Date: November 5 in theaters via Marvel Studios
As three faces of some of the biggest franchises globally, the combination of Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot will most certainly stir up excitement. Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who helmed “Skyscraper” and “We’re the Millers,” the action-thriller dives into the world of international crime as it follows an Interpol agent attempting to hunt down and capture the world’s most wanted art thief. The film will mark the third collaboration between Johnson and Thurber, who, along with “Skyscraper,” worked on “Central Intelligence” together.
Release Date: November 5 in theaters before streaming via Netflix on November 12
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Andrew Garfield are both having busy years. The former had the adaptation of his musical “In the Heights” hit theaters earlier this year, while Garfield has already starred in films such as “Mainstream” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” With “Tick, Tick…Boom!” the two are brought together in a musical homage to the first work of “Rent” creator Jonathan Lawson, who tragically died at 35. Vanessa Hudgens, Jordan Fisher, and Alexandra Shipp also star in Miranda’s first film as director.
Release Notice” November 12 in theaters before streaming via Netflix on November 19
The People’s Choice Award winner at the 2021 Toronto Film Festival, “Belfast, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, is a definite crowd-pleaser. Our critic spoke of its relatability for viewers, writing, “The parts of the movie that are going to resonate the most have the pacing they need to bring up one’s own memories of listening to a grandparent’s advice, of doing something you shouldn’t have to impress someone, or working up the nerve to talk to someone you liked.” A semi-autobiographical film chronicling the life of a working-class family and their young song’s childhood throughout Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, the cast consisting of Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, and Judi Dench have all been uniformly praised. However, critics seem most impressed by Jude Hill in his debut role.
Release Date: November 12 in theaters via Focus Features
In actress Halle Berry’s directorial debut, “Bruised,” she stars as a disgraced MMA fighter who seeks redemption in the cage as she faces her demons after the son she had given up as an infant re-enters her life. Also starring Shamier Anderson (“Dear White People,” “Killjoys“) and Adan Canto (“Designated Survivor“) with a script from Michelle Rosenfarb, “Bruised” made its debut at the 2020 Toronto Film Festival.
Release Date: November 17 in select theaters on streaming November 24 via Netflix
“The Power of the Dog“
In her first feature-length film since 2009’s gorgeously crafted “Bright Star,” director Jane Campion returns with one of the most buzzed-about films of the year so far, “The Power of the Dog.” This drama, starring an all-star cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee, is based on the novel of the same name from Thomas Savage, was a critical darling throughout the fall festival run. Centered on a family lorded over by a cruel rancher played by Cumberbatch, our critic wrote, “It’s cinematic poetry, if there ever was one, bourgeoning in meaning the more you linger in its shadow.”
Release Date: November 17 in theaters and streaming December 1 via Netflix
It’s been a minute since Will Smith has led such a high-profile prestige drama, his last acting credit being 2020’s forgotten “Bad Boys for Life.” With “King Richard,” which tells the story of famous tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Smith gets the chance to sink his teeth a little deeper as he plays the role of the controversial Richard Williams, the father, and coach to Venus and Serena. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (“Joe Bell“), our critic who saw the film at the 2021 Telluride Film Festival praised Smith’s performance, writing, “…this is a performance he almost completely loses himself in. The fact you simply forget Smith is playing Richard is a notable accomplishment considering the film’s 2 hours and 18 minutes run time.”
Release Date: November 19 in theaters and on HBO Max via Warner Bros.
The “Ghostbusters” franchise has had a rough timeline. Following the divisive release of the 2016 all-female-fronted version, the series is trying for a different angle this time around with “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” directed by Jason Reitman. This iteration that seemingly exists in the same timeline of the original film follows a single mother and her two children after moving to a new town, where they soon learn of their connections to the original Ghostbusters. The film stars Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, Fionn Wolfhard, Bill Murray, and more.
Release Date: November 19 in theaters via Sony Pictures
“Zeros and Ones“
Director Abel Ferrara (“Tommaso“) is one of our most prolific filmmakers working today and his latest, starring Ethan Hawke, sounds expectedly engaging. Also written by Ferrara, the film follows Hawke as a soldier called to Rome to stop a predicted terrorist bombing while seeking news of his imprisoned brother. The latter has knowledge that could prevent the attack. This race against the clock thriller premiered at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival, where our critic highlighted the work of DP Sean Price Williams, writing, “At times the digital grain is so pronounced that light pooling in the gloom looks like it’s full of cascading raindrops, while dark patches can seem almost livid with particulate, microbial movement: viral, unhealthy, teeming.”
Release Date: November 19 in theaters via Lionsgate
Between his work in his last two films, “20th Century Women” and “Beginners,” director Mike Mills has carved out a corner of delicate storytelling for himself as he draws from his own life. In his latest, the Joaquin Phoenix starring “C’mon, C’mon,” he focuses on the softspoken radio journalist Johnny who is asked to care for his young nephew Jesse. The film also stars Gabby Hoffman, Woody Norman, and Scoot McNairy and reunites Mills with musicians Bryce and Andrew Dessner of The National. Our critic wrote, “With ‘Cmon Cmon,’ Mills solidifies his position as one of our greatest cinematic humanists, filmmaking empaths, and chroniclers of emotive struggle. “
Release Date: November 19 in theaters via A24
“Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn“
Written and directed by Radu Jude (“Aferim!,”) “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” premiered at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear in the main competition section, which is the top prize of the event. This absurdist Romanian comedy-drama, which stars Katia Pascariu, Claudia Ieremia, and Olimpia Mălai, deals in the fallout and scandal after a teacher’s sex tape is released and goes viral.
Release Date: November 19 in theaters via Magnolia Pictures
“House of Gucci”
As Ridley Scott’s second film being released this year following “The Last Duel,” “House of Gucci” reunites him and actor Adam Driver in this heightened adaptation of the novel “The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” by author Sara Gay Forden and adapted for film by Becky Johnston. Following the turbulent marriage and subsequent divorce of Patrizia and Maurizio Gucci, the head of the Gucci fashion house, the story tracks how this relationship leads to murder. Alongside Driver stars Lady Gaga (the first since her Oscar-nominated turn in “A Star is Born“), Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, and Al Pacino.
Release Date: November 24 in theaters via United Artists Releasing
In what looks to be a shocking and new turn, “The Unforgivable” stars Sandra Bullock as a woman who has recently been released from prison who is facing a community unwilling to find forgiveness for her as she seeks out the sister she left behind. Viola Davis and Jon Bernthal also star in this film from director Nora Fingscheidt. Written by Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz, and Courtenay Miles and based on the 2009 British series “Unforgiven” by Sally Wainwright, this release is exciting on the acting merits of Bullock and Davis alone.
Release Date: November 24 in theaters and streaming December 10 via Netflix
Stephen Karam adapts his one-act play of the same name in his directorial debut with its powder keg premise. Starring Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, Jayne Houdyshell, Steven Yeun, and Amy Schumer, the story centers on one family stuck under the same roof to celebrate Thanksgiving, soon dissolving into meditations on the group’s greatest fears and paranoia. The play won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Our critic saw the film at the Toronto Film Festival and praised Jenkins, Houdyshell, and June Squibb, writing, “This trio of veteran actors taps into the varied depths of their characters, unpacking the kind of emotional craters that the years might fill in but never totally pat down.”
Release Date: November 24 in theaters and Showtime via A24
“Drive My Car“
In his second film to be released in 2021 (the first being the terrific “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy“), director Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Asako I & II,” “Happy Hour“) returns with “Drive My Car,” the official Japanese entry for the Best International Feature Film Oscar. Based on the short story of the same name by author Haruki Murakami, the story follows the relationship between an aging actor and his go-to mechanic, who ends up being his new chauffeur. Starring Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tōko Miura, our critic called the film “masterful,” writing “Hamaguchi has crafted a rich, skilfully layered masterwork with flawless performances and a script that is a screenwriter’s holy grail.”
Release Date: November 24 in theaters via Bitters End