It’s November: the month of Thanksgiving, the societal horror that is Black Friday, the marketing horror that is Cyber Monday, the disintegration of your favorite football team’s season, and, if you live in Los Angeles, a small chance that the temperature falls below 70. Which is to say it's a mixed bag of a 30-day stretch. Fresh off the worst box-office weekend of the year, can the same be said for the month's upcoming movie releases? Let me tell you and, in the process, rank these things accordingly! One thing's for certain: It has to be better than Floptober.
10. Victor Frankenstein
While you can count me among the supporters of Max Landis, the ultraprolific screenwriter behind Chronicle, American Ultra, and 200 other movies coming to a theater near you, I’m still skeptical about the chances of his next film, Victor Frankenstein, which comes out November 25. Despite the dynamite pairing of James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in the lead roles and the clever/confusing idea of making Dr. Frankenstein and Igor sexy, you need look no further than the meltdown that was Pan to realize that the public isn’t exactly hankering for classic tales reworked as superhero movies. If Victor Frankenstein turns out to be really, really good, there is the precedent of RDJ and Jude Law’s Sherlock Holmes, which opened to $62 million back in December 2009, to point to as hope that audiences will show up for a fun, familiar action flick that isn’t based on a comic book or YA novel. More likely, The Hunger Games’ long shadow proves too much to reckon with, and Landis goes on another Twitter rant about how original ideas are going extinct.
9. Category fraud
And now, a song:
It’s Oscars season
We’re filled with glee
Are you a lead or supporting?
Let's ask Har-vey!
Category fraud is nothing new: Way back in 1974, Tatum O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon despite being in most of the film because, as a 10-year-old, she was deemed too young to compete in the top category. This, of course, belies a crucial misunderstanding of the difference between Actor and Supporting Actor: Instead of being viewed as the different honors they are — one for those who take on the burden of carrying a film, the other for a performer who can make maximum impact working with less — the two are often treated as the major and minor leagues. Eventually you can graduate to competing for Best, but you start in Supporting until your profile rises accordingly.
Anyway! This year, we have two potent examples, both of which drop in November. Alongside Cate Blanchett in Carol, Rooney Mara carries equal weight as one half of a lesbian couple in the 1950s; and across from Eddie Redmayne’s transgender painter in The Danish Girl, Alicia Vikander gets an arguably larger part as the supportive wife. Should they be sold as leads? Sure! Will they almost certainly get nominated in Supporting? Yep!
8. Animated kids movies based on 65-year-old Sunday comics
7. Animated kids movies not based on 65-year-old Sunday comics
Had you asked me for my list of the properties audiences are dying to see turned into CGI kids’ movies, Peanuts would have been neither near nor far from the top of my list; it would not have been on my list at all. But like Charlie Brown failing to kick that football, Peanuts will continue to reappear in nearly the same form over and over and over, until either the Earth is swallowed by the sun or Charlie Brown, in a fit of pique and frustration, fights back against his oppressors, at which point Peanuts will just become the next Hunger Games. Nonetheless, The Peanuts Movie will come to theaters this month, shortly followed by The Good Dinosaur, the newest effort from always-productive Pixar. Despite the number of times we’ve all seen Charlie Brown get humiliated on television, I’m going to predict that the youths’ hunger for cute dinos outweighs their taste for existential angst and bald children, and The Good Dinosaur outperforms Peanuts.
6. Judeo-Christian comedy filmmaking
I don’t quite know what to make of The Night Before, the upcoming Christmas-based comedy (?) starring Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (??), Anthony Mackie, and some gnarly holiday sweaters. But the trailer’s actually funny, and in a month, that’s going to be really, really, really dark — sad James Bond! children fighting in a dystopian universe! Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie screaming at each other! — this could be a brilliant bit of counterprogramming. Another cause for optimism: It’s directed and co-written by Jonathan Levine, who gave us the winning 50-50, which also starred Rogen and Gordon-Levitt. Although it’s been a minute since JGL did comedy, not counting his accent in The Walk — YA BURNT — I’m cautiously optimistic here.
5. Michael B. Jordan
“Welcome to this month’s edition of HOW’S YOUR BOXING MOVIE? Special thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal for guesting on our last show, and damn, does my man suffer for his art. This time around we have Michael B. Jordan, whose Creed, the tale of Apollo Creed’s son Adonis Johnson — NOW THAT’S A NAME, FOLKS — is coming soon. Jordan’s one of our hottest young actors, and I don’t mean because he played the Human Torch, and I also don’t mean because he played the Human Torch in a movie that cratered so hard, it could’ve been the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. So, like all hot young actors, he had to make a boxing movie. But will it be any good? Well, it’s written and directed by Ryan Coogler, the similarly hot-and-young director behind the Jordan-starring knockout Fruitvale Station, and it’s got Sly Stallone playing Rocky again, so, uh, that’s cool! ADRIAN. Ha, man, it never gets old. Anyway, all signs point to GOOD — this boxing movie will be a solid GOOD. Tune in next time, when Jordan's Fantastic Four co-star Miles Teller joins us for another edition of HOW’S YOUR BOXING MOVIE?
4. The cast of Spotlight
Spotlight, Tom McCarthy’s excellent chronicle of the Boston Globe’s exposé on abuse within the Boston Archdiocese, will be a major player in the Best Picture race, and it’s a rapid comeback for McCarthy after the crazy mess that was 2014's The Cobbler. But having seen Spotlight, I’m thinking that the major impact of the film, aside from reviving the conversation around scandals in the Catholic church, will come via its outstanding cast. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and Billy Crudup all do work that is as good as or better than their best to date, and McCarthy’s style — naturalistic, unencumbered by cinematic signposting, and human-focused — highlights the actors’ contributions above all. And while Keaton and McAdams are both terrific, this should put to rest any and all doubts that Mark Ruffalo is one of our best working character actors.
3. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie
Here’s what we know about By the Sea:
(a) It takes place by the sea
(b) Both leads wear awesome glasses
(c) TROUBLE IN PARADISE
That’s it! That’s really all we know, and this movie comes out in, like, two weeks. But the fact that Brad and Angie can sell a movie solely based on the fact that they’re co-starring in it should be all the indication you need of their continued power and influence in the culture. If it actually turns out to be good, By the Sea could finally mark the long-awaited arrival of Jolie as a major American filmmaker, not just an actor trying to make the leap. At the very least, expect beautiful histrionics, a great mustache from Brad, and a lesson in whether you and your S.O. should finally launch that start-up you’ve been talking about.
What exactly is the cultural significance of James Bond in 2015? Although it’s a provocative question, one that had me talking about “fascistic fantasies” during a Vulture conference call just hours ago, there’s a short and straightforward answer: He can make a billion bucks worldwide. That’s the kind of business Skyfall did, and it’s the benchmark we’re using when determining whether Spectre, the last Bond film featuring Daniel Craig in the titular role, will send the franchise riding high toward its next star or in need of a casting resuscitation. The smart money’s on money, what with Christoph Waltz, arguably our best living Nefarious Villain type, taking the role he was born to play, and Sam Mendes, the director of Skyfall, still driving. Either way, Spectre marks the end of an era for one of cinema’s most enduring figures; prepare yourself for the horse race that’s to come once Craig hangs up the tux.
1. Part one of Jennifer Lawrence’s two-part winter 2015 plan to further her rise toward world domination