Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana. Will Smith as Richard Williams. A bunch of famous actors, some in elaborate prosthetics, as the Gucci family. This November is filthy with famous people playing famous people—a hallmark of any awards season, of course. It’s also plenty heavy on less explicitly biographical Oscar fare, including new movies from Jane Campion, Mike Mills, and Paul Thomas Anderson. More of a blockbuster fan? Hollywood’s got you covered with more Marvel, more Ghostbusters, and more Resident Evil. Keep reading to find out everything that’s coming to theaters and a living room near you in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
2 / 30
The third Marvel movie of the year (with another on the way in December) dusts off one of the comic book company’s more obscure properties: a team of ageless, extraterrestrial demigods that Jack Kirby created in the 1970s. But if the characters are second stringers, the talent bringing them to the screen definitely isn’t; Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Gemma Chan, Barry Keoghan, and not one but two of the Game Of Thrones Stark boys are among the actors enlisting in this millenia-spanning blockbuster from Nomadland director Chloé Zhao. Reviews, including our own, have been mixed, complaining that the inherent weirdness of the material has been flattened into another formulaic Marvel movie. Not that audiences will likely mind the familiarity; the film could very well join Black Widow and Shang-Chi at the top of the 2021 box office.
3 / 30
Even in a post-apocalyptic hell-world, Tom Hanks is a doting dad. The Oscar-winner stars in this presumably heartwarming story about a man, his pet robot, and their dog companion making their way across a barren stretch of what used to be America. Originally slated for the big screen (which explains the epic scale of the effects), Finch was sold by Universal to Apple, and will now premiere exclusively on the latter’s streaming platform, just like last year’s quarantine Hanks vehicle, Greyhound. Maybe that will suit the film, which seems to hinge largely on how much chemistry the star can build with a CGI robot and flesh-and-blood canine—an acting exercise he’s likely up to, given the wonders he once worked with a truly inanimate co-star, Wilson The Volleyball.
4 / 30
Pablo Larraín has kept busy in the five years since Jackie, his acclaimed anti-biopic starring Natalie Portman as a grieving Jacqueline Kennedy; he’s filled the interim with the drama Ema and the TV series Lisey’s Story. But Spencer, featuring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, feels like a more direct follow-up— like Jackie, it follows an impossibly glamorous and scrutinized public figure during a compressed period of stress, showcasing a movie-star performance that toys with artifice and authenticity. Stewart may well score her first Oscar nomination for portraying an uncomfortable, paranoid Diana scrambling for escape from her crumbling marriage—and the world’s highest-profile insufferable in-laws.
5 / 30
Netflix continues its quest to make a movie as gigantically oversized as a vintage big-studio offering with this action-comedy caper, wherein an FBI agent (Dwayne Johnson) teams up with a cocky art thief (Ryan Reynolds) to catch another, equally cocky, but probably less smarmy art thief (Gal Gadot). Expensive-looking globetrotting, fisticuffs, flirtations, and chases ensue. Hopefully writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber, an old hand at making mediocre Dwayne Johnson vehicles, hasn’t made a de facto spinoff of those deadly Ryan Reynolds scenes from Hobbs & Shaw.
6 / 30
The Beta Test
The Beta Test
Jim Cummings is quickly cornering the market on half-comic portraits of unstable American men in crisis. Following his terrific feature debut, Thunder Road, and the lycanthropic small-town murder mystery The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, the writer-director-star returns with this genre-blending thriller about a married Hollywood agent whose world is turned upside down when he receives a mysterious invitation to indulge in an anonymous one-night stand with a secret admirer. As in his earlier films, the big draw is Cummings’ frazzled, high-strung performance—another expertly modulated, often hilarious depiction of a nervous breakdown in progress, this time satirically framed through the lens of #MeToo anxiety.
7 / 30
Kosovo’s official entry for next year’s International Feature Oscar picked up a trio of major awards (including an audience prize) at Sundance in January. In a low-key, neorealistic kind of way, it’s something of a crowd-pleaser: the reportedly true story of a beekeeper (Yllka Gashi), mourning the probable death of her husband in the war, who defies the rigid gender norms of her small town to kickstart a new business. Our correspondent from the festival praised the “soulful stoicism” of Gashi’s performance, while still wondering how well the material really functioned as a drama.
8 / 30
Clifford The Big Red Dog
Clifford The Big Red Dog
After being chased out of its previous scheduled spot by The Big Scary Virus, kid lit’s favorite oversized canine is finally here for his second set of cinematic walkies (after an animated film in 2004). Darby Camp and Jack Whitehall serve as the human reference figures meant to make us truly appreciate how big and crimson this CGI dog is, while Tony Hale plays an absolutely cartoonish-sounding villain: a genetics researcher who wants to capture Clifford to find out what terrible secret makes him so big, and also so red. Walt Becker, whose other major cinematic offerings include Old Dogs and the fourth Alvin And The Chipmunks movie, directs. Kenan Thompson presumably does his best.
9 / 30
It’s too soon to handicap next year’s Oscar race, but that hasn’t stopped plenty of pundits from naming an early Best Picture frontrunner: Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical, black-and-white coming-of-age drama about a young boy (Jude Hill) growing up in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, during what would come to be known as The Troubles. The film won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto this autumn—one key to the speculation about its Oscar chances, given that two other recent recipients of the TIFF prize, Nomadland and Green Book, went on to claim top honors from the Academy. Belfast, whose supporting cast includes Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, and Jamie Dornan, does look curiously heartwarming for a movie about that particular conflict, but we’ll refrain from judging a book by its cover—or rather, an acclaimed film by its sweeping, audience-courting, feel-good trailer.
10 / 30
Home Sweet Home Alone
Home Sweet Home Alone
Did we really need another Home Alone movie? A naive question, perhaps, when it comes to Hollywood’s present relationship with IP; necessary or not, Home Sweet Home Alone is coming to wreak family-friendly havoc on Disney+ for the holidays. A few changes have been made in this modern update: Max (Archie Yates, a.k.a. the kid from Jojo Rabbit) and his mom are now British, and Max’s absence on a family trip to Tokyo is explained away by a booking error that puts parents and kids on separate flights. The burglars have also been changed up, with Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper co-starring as a larcenous married couple about to enter a world of festive pain.
11 / 30
Tick, Tick... Boom!
Tick, Tick... Boom!
Andrew Garfield’s dynamic performance style and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s talent for uplift combine in this film adaptation of Rent composer Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical. The story concerns an aspiring playwright (Garfield) who’s fretting about his impending 30th birthday and what he perceives as a lack of achievement in his 20s. (Ah, youth.) His anxiety is, naturally, expressed through song, as is the comedy of errors of his travels through the New York theater scene. Miranda, who was, of course, once a Broadway boy wonder himself, makes his feature debut behind the camera.
12 / 30
Current Secretary Of Transportation, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and one-time Oval Office hopeful Pete Buttigeg gets the biographical documentary treatment courtesy of Boys State co-director Jesse Moss. The film purports to show a more personal side of Buttigeg, following his campaign as one of the first openly LGBTQ+ people to run for president. Along for the ride is communications manager Lis Smith, whose profanity-laced commentary earns the doc an R rating for language. A trailer for Mayor Pete shows footage from a town hall meeting where South Bend residents take Buttigeg to task for a police shooting in the city. Overall, however, this appears to be a laudatory portrait of a rising star in American politics.
13 / 30
The curious and self-reflexive documentaries of Robert Greene (Bisbee ’ 17, Kate Plays Christine) are often called hybrids; they mix real life with role-playing and reenactment, blurring the line between performance and reality. In Procession, Greene tackles a sobering topic—sexual abuse by Catholic clergy—through a group portrait of six middle-aged men who attempt to confront their shared childhood traumas through an elaborate form of drama therapy that ultimately leads them to produce a series of short films. For all of his bold formal choices, Greene possesses a sensitive eye; it’s hard to think of another filmmaker who could pull something like this off.
14 / 30
The subjects of this intimate, gorgeously shot documentary are three teenage girls living in a small military town in Texas. We watch them kill time, grow a little older, and discuss with depressing matter-of-factness the predatory behavior of their male peers over a single, sweltering summer. Directed by Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill, the languid, discursive Cusp was one of the best nonfiction features to premiere at Sundance this year.
15 / 30
The Power Of The Dog
The Power Of The Dog
The Piano director Jane Campion returns with this fall festival favorite, a revisionist early-20th-century Western of sorts in which a soft-spoken rancher (Jesse Plemons) marries a widow (Kirsten Dunst) who is menaced by the rancher’s brother and business partner (Benedict Cumberbatch)—a man’s-man cowboy type who hides a secret, while also bullying and mentoring the widow’s college-aged son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The A.V. Club’s Vikram Murthi, reporting from the New York Film Festival, had praise for all four central performances, noting that the actors “instill their characters with nuanced emotions and genuine menace,” while also mentioning that some of the film’s visual metaphors feel overly literary. (The film’s based on a lesser-known novel by Thomas Savage.)
16 / 30
The poor Sony corporation keeps trying to revive Ghostbusters, and all they can bring back to life is zombified discourse. Endless discussions about an undead franchise actually suit this new Ghostbusters perfectly; director and cowriter Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters ’84 director Ivan Reitman and until now a mostly acclaimed director of movies for grown-ups, has paid reverent tribute to the original movie. Hardcore fans may love the fealty, and this Stranger Things take on the material, centering on Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), the granddaughter of Egon Spengler, certainly allows for a different visual tone. But… well, read all about it in our review from New York Comic-Con. (No spoilers!)
17 / 30
After the franchise-friendly likes of Aladdin, Bright, and Bad Boys For Life, Will Smith takes another swing at serious drama with King Richard, playing Richard Williams, the loving but domineering father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. A mix of biopic, underdog sports story, and parenting memoir, the movie follows Richard as he fights for (and sometimes against) his daughters, helping hone their athletic talent. It’s director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s second true-life-based star-vehicle drama of 2021, following the decidedly more ill-advised Joe Bell.
18 / 30
Writer-director Mike Mills (not the guy from R.E.M.) returns with another dramedy about family relationships, following the Oscar-favored likes of Beginners and 20th Century Women. Joaquin Phoenix is decidedly less bent out of shape than usual as a childless documentarian who helps take care of his nephew (newcomer Woody Norman) as the kid’s mother (Gaby Hoffman) deals with a family crisis. Though plenty of festival viewers have swooned for the movie’s sensitivity, performances, and black-and-white photography, our own Vikram Murthi was less impressed, describing the film as a regression to the cuteness of Beginners, and a retreat from the beguiling thorniness of 20th Century Women.
19 / 30
Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn
Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn
Radu Jude, director of such Romanian acquired tastes as I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians and Aferim!, won the top prize at Berlin this year for his latest challenging narrative experiment. Unfolding across three stylistically and conceptually distinct chapters, this eccentrically titled film follows a schoolteacher (Katia Pascariu) whose job and reputation are jeopardized when her private sex tape is leaked. Reviews from the fest circuit have emphasized a Godardian quality to Jude’s approach, while some have characterized it as a comedy, albeit a very dry one.
20 / 30
Zeroes And Ones
Zeroes And Ones
Drug addiction didn’t stop Abel Ferrara, the poet of inner turmoil and grime behind Bad Lieutenant and King Of New York, from making movies. And the subsequent years of sobriety have only made him more productive. So of course a little thing like a pandemic isn’t going to get in his way. This low-budget thriller, shot guerilla-style under lockdown in Rome, stars Ethan Hawke (how have these two never worked together?) in a dual role as a soldier and his revolutionary brother, who may have some information on a planned terrorist attack. The word “murky” has been bandied about in early reviews; we can’t wait.
21 / 30
House Of Gucci
House Of Gucci
Ridley Scott takes his second swing at the post-COVID box office in as many months with a biographical crime thriller about the murder of a fashion icon; more practically, it’s just the latest front in Jared Leto’s long-running war on his own face. But while Leto’s fat-suit-aided transformation into designer Paolo Gucci is certainly eye-catching (ditto Al Pacino’s), all eyes are likely to lock on Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci, and Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani, the woman who first married, then murdered him. Will audiences be any more ready for this camp-heavy fashion family drama than they were for The Last Duel? Hard to say, but at least the fits will be impeccable.
22 / 30
Disney’s second big in-house animated feature of the year sounds a bit like a cousin to sister studio Pixar’s The Incredibles: It’s about a family in the mountains of Colombia where every member has some kind of magical power—except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz, a long way from the unsmiling Rosa of Brooklyn Nine-Nine). But though she doesn’t have Wolverine-like healing powers or Hulk-style super-strength, Mirabel is called upon to save the family home when everyone in it starts to lose their magic. Zootopia directors Byron Howard and Jared Bush team up with Moana songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda for what is supposedly a new musical, though there are barely any songs in the colorful trailer.
23 / 30
Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City
Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City
The previous multiplex versions of Capcom’s survival-horror phenomenon were Resident Evil basically in name only; writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson took a loose approach to bringing the games to the screen, bending them into a shape that better suited his own action-movie interests. Made for a new age of slavishly faithful IP adaptations, this reboot sticks much closer to the original PlayStation source material, lifting not just a general plot but also specific scenes and images from the first couple games in the series. The trailer unpromisingly resembles an extended cut scene, though we’re holding out some hope thanks to the presence of writer-director Johannes Roberts, who made the underrated sequel to The Strangers.
24 / 30
Just in time for Thanksgiving comes an unsettling new drama about how damn grueling the holiday can be. In his directorial debut, playwright Stephen Karam adapts for the screen his Tony-winning one-act about a twentysomething artist (Beanie Feldstein) sharing an increasingly tense late November day with her parents (Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell) and older sister (Amy Schumer) in the moldering Manhattan duplex she’s moved into with her boyfriend (Steven Yeun). The cast is uniformly terrific, and Karam finds a fruitful way to make the material more cinematic—not by “opening it up” but by actually enhancing the claustrophobia through a lot of horror-movie compositions and sound design.
25 / 30
Originally conceived as a Nick Cassavetes/Blake Lively joint, this Netflix feature became a Halle Berry vehicle in more ways than one when she slipped into both its starring role and its director’s chair back in 2018. The results look pretty Rocky, as Berry’s former MMA star tries to reclaim some of her super-violent glory in what the trailer asserts isn’t a “second chance” but a “last chance.” Shamier Anderson, Adan Canto, Sheila Atim, and Dune’s Stephen McKinley Henderson co-star as the people trying to get “Jackie Justice” back in the ring, but most of the focus is on Berry’s character, and on the long-lost son who inspires her to reclaim her former spark for hitting other human beings very, very hard in an economically viable way.
26 / 30
Netflix taps into Sandra Bullock’s grimmer side for this story of a woman attempting to reintegrate into society after serving time for a violent crime. German director Nora Fingscheidt (System Crasher) offers up her first English-language feature, adapting a British TV miniseries about a woman who killed two police officers when she was 17, and is now trying to reconnect with her missing sister. Viola Davis, Jon Bernthal, Aisling Franciosi, Rob Morgan, and Vincent D’Onofrio all co-star alongside Bullock, whose last Netflix effort was the also-pretty-damn-grim sci-fi story Bird Box.
27 / 30
Drive My Car
Drive My Car
Japanese writer-director Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Asako I & II) is having a very prolific 2021. His previous film, the anthology Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy, premiered at Berlin in March, before opening in American theaters a few weeks ago. Now, already, comes his follow-up: the Cannes prizewinner Drive My Car, a three-hour adaptation of a short story by Haruki Murakami about a venerated stage actor (Hidetoshi Nishijima) working through some undigested loss and resentment via a production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. The “roominess” is “its greatest selling point” our correspondent from Toronto wrote of this lengthy, languid drama, noting that “Hamaguchi nudges his story along at an unhurried pace not so unlike life itself.”
28 / 30
Once tentatively titled Soggy Bottom, now named after a string of long-since-shuddered California record stores, Licorice Pizza returns writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson to the general time and place of Boogie Nights and Inherent Vice—which is to say, to the San Fernando Valley of the early 1970s. This apparent tale of young love pairs two first-time actors: Cooper Hoffman, a.k.a. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son, and Alana Haim, of the rock band Haim (several of whose music videos Anderson has directed). Early word promised something in the ballpark of American Graffiti or Dazed And Confused. Whatever shape it takes, we’re pumped; a new PT Anderson movie is reliably among the can’t-miss events of any movie season.
29 / 30
No, it isn’t a sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s underrated black comedy—The Informant: Fear And Faith In The Heartland (Hulu 11/1) is instead a documentary about Dan Day, an FBI informant who infiltrated a Kansas City militia group. On the heels of Mia Hansen-Løve’s Bergman Island comes the U.S. theatrical release of her very first feature, All Is Forgiven (select and digital theaters 11/5). Mel Gibson plays ex-con Scott Eastwood’s psychiatrist (!?) in the B-action thriller Dangerous (select theaters and VOD 11/5). Nina Dobrev gets cat-fished for the holidays in the romantic comedy Love Hard (Netflix 11/5). Georgian festival favorite What We Do See When We Look At The Sky? (select theaters 11/12) complicates a meet-cute with a magic curse. A dinner party in the mountains becomes a folk-horror nightmare in The Feast (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 11/19). Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time (select theaters and VOD 11/19) is a documentary profile nearly 40 years in the making. If The Humans doesn’t satiate your hunger for scary-leaning Thanksgiving fare, the aliens-in-a-toy-store horror-comedy Black Friday (select theaters 11/19; VOD 11/23) offers another helping. And the animated The Summit Of The Gods (select theaters 11/24; Netflix 11/30) follows a photographer retracing the steps of a mountaineer.
30 / 30