November movie guide
A look at this month’s upcoming films
What’s been on our TV screens this past month has been nothing short of frightening and it’s time to take a break.
A handful of decent-looking movies – none of which look even remotely as scary as the 2016 Presidential Election – are coming out throughout the rest of November and the beginning of December, ranging from a desperate “Harry Potter” spinoff to an attempt to make Disney inclusive again (they’ll still get a lot of hate no matter how hard they tried).
Let’s purge the crap from the small screens by taking in some slightly less awful crap on the big screen.
“Doctor Strange” is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second of their “Phase Three” films after this summer’s “Captain America: Civil War.” The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch with his very convincing American accent as Stephen Strange, an acclaimed neurosurgeon and right bastard who loses the use of his hands in a car accident.
Strange travels to Nepal when he hears tale of a paraplegic regaining use of his legs after spending time there.
In Nepal, Strange finds more than just motor skills but that he has a knack for the mystic arts. Under the tutelage of Mordo (Chiwetal Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”) and The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton, “The Chronicles of Narnia”), he learns the art of sorcery, introducing mysticism into the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- not to mention a rad cape and trippy visuals that would do Strange’s creator Steve Ditko proud.
“Bleed for This”
Writer/director Ben Younger returns from an 11-year hiatus from film to give us the story of the greatest comeback in boxing history.
“Bleed for This” tells the story of Vinny Paz (Miles Teller, “Whiplash”), a world champion boxer who is forced to relinquish his title after a car accident breaks his neck. Doctors tell Paz that he might never walk again, but in the months after the accident he maintains a workout regimen and, with the help of trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart, “The Dark Knight”), returns to the ring to reclaim his title.
Teller seems to be working overtime to course correct his career after the flop that was “Fantastic Four.” The role of a boxer suits him perfectly as he is in possession of one of the most punchable faces in Hollywood. Even Josh Trank seems to think so, as the director and Teller almost came to blows on the set of “Fantastic Four.”
“Whiplash” was amazing, though. Come to think of it, he gets hit a lot in the face in that movie too. There might be something to this.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
The “Harry Potter” film series is the second highest grossing film franchise of all time, behind only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has almost twice the amount of entries in the series as “Harry Potter.” This past July the script for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was published in book form and sold over $2 million worth of copies in two days in the U.S. and Canada.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” premieres in two weeks, yet no one seems excited.
There has been almost no buzz around this movie, which is strange considering the popularity of the series. Perhaps it’s because the film is based on a book within the book series. Perhaps it is due to the lack of recognizable characters.
Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) stars as Newt Scamander, the fictional author of the fictional book the film is named after. Scamander arrives in New York City in 1926 to research and rescue fantastic beasts, which can then be found in a pocket-dimension stored in his leather carrying case.
Boom, mystery solved; no need to see the movie. But wait, the beasts escape from the case and Scamander must team up with Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein (Katherine Waterston, “Boardwalk Empire”), a former Auror (magic cop), and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol, “The Lucky One”) to recover the creatures. Maybe he’ll keep them in something a little sturdier than a handbag.
The latest animated feature from Disney tells the story of Moana (Auli'i Cravalho, in her debut role), a princess from a mystic Polynesian island. Moana is a born navigator and sets sail in search of a fabled island. On her journey she teams up with legendary demigod Maui played by Dwayne Johnson, who is also a Polynesian demigod in real life.
“Moana” is still coming under fire from critics despite adding some diversity to the stable of Disney princesses, something Disney had been criticized for in the past. Complaints center around the character of Maui who is depicted as overweight, which some believe perpetuates that stereotype against Polynesians.
Honestly, the character doesn't appear to be fat at all. He is broad, yes, but appears to be solid muscle like the man providing his voice. The character of Moana is also depicted as fit and actually pretty realistically proportioned for a young girl. Disney will be subjected to criticism, no matter how much they work toward diversity.
“Bad Santa 2”
Billy Bob Thornton (“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”) is back in “Bad Santa 2.” Thornton stars as Santa, or maybe a guy who dresses like Santa. But he’s not very good at it, I guess? I don’t know.
Full disclosure, I never saw the original “Bad Santa.” I was too young when it came out and I wasn’t allowed to.
The sequel was first mentioned by the film’s star, Billy Bob Thornton in 2009. Thornton is also on record saying this film will not be as good as the original. I mean, how could it be? Sequels are always tricky.
Mark Waters is in charge, and he directed “Mean Girls,” so that could be promising. But he also directed “Vampire Academy,” so it’s a toss-up for him. Hey, Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men,” “Firefly,” my dreams) is in it. Maybe I’ll see it just for her.
David Tunis-Garcia is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at: