The blockbuster season has some last vestiges in November with “Doctor Strange” and the latest from the “Harry Potter” universe, but mostly it’s crowd pleasers and awards bait. Although there are a few comedies and family films, the rest of the releases are dedicated to serious stories that will hopefully draw critical raves and awards nominations soon enough. Luckily, the quality on display seems to be evident and should be entertaining for the average cinephile as they wade through the month’s options. Even those blockbuster types seem slightly different with unique visuals and stories that should be engaging for audiences.
Who: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen and Benedict Wong
What: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
When: November 4th
Why: Marvel’s first foray into the more mystical side of their multiverse comes with some truly impressive acting pedigrees, from Cumberbatch as the titular doctor to Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One that teaches him the power of sorcery. The visuals on display suggest a trippy aesthetic that will play with people’s minds as they enjoy the origin story of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. Director Scott Derrickson, who co-wrote the script with Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill, has done mostly horror (“Sinister”) but looks ready to leap into the blockbuster foray with this genre defying action tale.
Who: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn and Hugo Weaving
What: The story of U.S. Army medic Desmond T. Doss, who saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa without carrying a weapon of any kind.
When: November 4th
Why: What looks to be a harrowing tale of the price of war, both in casualties and on a man’s soul, is elevated by the inclusion of its director, Mel Gibson. While his name is not appearing on too many of the advertisements, opting instead for citing his previous directorial efforts, and despite all of his troubles, Gibson has proven himself an incredible filmmaker who is able to deliver rousing set pieces and indelible sequences that stay with audiences long after the credits. It’s been ten years since his last movie, and many may stay away if they can’t divorce the art from the artist, but it would be very interesting to see if this awards baity film has a real soul to it in retelling a story of a man who has seen far too much bloodshed and loss on the battlefield.
Who: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg and Forest Whitaker
What: A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.
When: November 11th
Why: Those expecting to see an alien invasion movie on par with “Independence Day” will be disappointed by this beautiful film from increasingly impressive director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario,” “Prisoners”), which screened earlier this year at Fantastic Fest. But those who like their sci-fi with more intelligence and emotional connections will be pleasantly surprised by this often charming, incredibly resonant film about the ties that bind and the difficult choice of pragmatic fatalism with audacity of hope for people. Gorgeously shot and brilliantly handled, “Arrival” underscores a few too many plot points too strongly, but it’s still is surprising piece that really gets to the heart of what it means to connect to strangers and find the ties that bind.