“Bleeding Heart” (November 3)
“Bleeding Heart,” a heavy family drama from writer-director Diane Bell, features Jessica Biel and “Girls” star Zosia Mamet in two refreshingly uncharacteristic roles. Biel plays a yoga instructor whose peaceful existence is shattered when she comes into contact with her troubled long-lost biological sister. Lightyears away from her HBO character, Mamet plays Shiva, a street-smart sex worker. While the reunion starts off on a positive note, it is disturbed by the appearance of Shiva’s abusive boyfriend. What happens next forces the sisters into an unexpected bond as the meaning of family truly reveals itself. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and co-stars Edi Gathegi, Joe Anderson, Kate Burton and Harry Hamlin.
“The Hallow” (November 5)
British director Corin Hardy’s gothic tale finds a small family taking root in a remote shack in the Irish forest, despite locals who warn them off. That much we’ve seen before, but “The Hallow” elevates its premise with utterly believable (and largely practical) effects as the forest slowly comes alive: Vines and shrubbery never looked this menacing before. A visual artist before he turned to cinema, Hardy’s atmospheric horror uses a series of familiar beats to churn out marvelously eerie storybook imagery, not to mention the world’s scariest fungus.
“I Smile Back” (November 6)
Audiences know Sarah Silverman best as the fearless R-rated comedian who loves a good dirty joke, but that all changes in Adam Salky’s “I Smile Back.” The actress will shock you with her breakthrough dramatic performance, which follows a suburban wife as her depression and disillusionment threaten to destroy her seemingly perfect life. Within the first 20 or so minutes of this harrowing film, based on the 2008 novel by Amy Koppelman, Silverman’s Laney goes on a drug- and alcohol- fueled rampage that causes her husband (Josh Charles) to check her into rehab. Silverman is astonishing in the role, fearless in her portrayal of a woman on the verge of self destruction.
“Hot Sugar’s Cold World” (November 6)
This behind-the-scenes doc provides an up-close-and-personal look at Nick Koenig, aka Hot Sugar” a “modern-day Mozart” who creates music made entirely out of sounds from the world around him. Nick lives every young musician’s dream, but when his Internet-famous girlfriend goes on tour and they split up, he flees to Paris to move on with his life, while hunting for increasingly unique and exotic sounds to sample and turn into beats. In the hands of director Adam Bhala Lough, Hot Sugar’s journey to rediscover himself and his sounds makes for an infectious adventure of musical proportions. Executive producers include David Gordon Green, Danny McBride and Jody Hill.
“Entertainment” (November 13)
Rick Alverson’s followup to “The Comedy” is another genre-defying portrait of a troubled man — in this case, a standup comedian who’s anything but funny. Co-written with Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington, Alverson’s sketchy, irreverent drama follows the latter as an embellished version of the real-life comedian’s onstage persona — the alternately awkward and grotesque Neil Hamburger. The film offers a fascinating look at the tension between personal aspirations and the harsh realities holding them back. Turkington’s performance, both terrifying and absurd, gets to the essence of a fascinating concept that defies the limitations of his bawdy routine. Eventually devolving into a mess of sobs and maniacal laughter, his meltdown arrives with the eerie suggestion that the two exclamations aren’t that far apart. He’s hopelessly depressed and self-loathing, but for the same reasons, alive with feeling.
“Shelter” (November 13)
After years of tackling roles in front of the camera, Paul Bettany steps into the director’s chair for the very first time for “Shelter,” an effective homelessness drama starring Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Mackie. The story follows Hannah (Connelly) and Tahir (Mackie), who come from two different worlds but fall in love while homeless on the streets of New York City. The plot explores how they got there and as more is revealed about their pasts, it is clear that they need each other to build a future. With its dynamic lead performances and reserved direction, “Shelter” is an unsparing story of loss, love and, ultimately, hope.
“#Horror” (November 20)
With a star-studded cast — including Chloe Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning and Timothy Hutton — and a contemporary hook that fuses the Internet with traditional horror tropes, “#Horror” is a scathing look at just how scary the current technological climate is. The movie is written and directed by Tara Subkoff in her filmmaking debut and follows a group of preteen girls living in a suburban world of money and privilege. Their rich lives take a turn for the worst when their obsession with a disturbing online game goes too far. In no time, virtual terror becomes all too real.
“Mediterranea” (November 20)
Cited by Indiewire as “the most timely movie at this year’s Cannes Film Festival,” Jonas Carpignano’s tender, devastating first feature is a powerful look at the migrant crisis in Europe. “Mediterranea” follows a pair of young adult friends on their trepidatious journey from Burkina Faso to Italy, where they wind up at odds with the dream life they envisioned. As a snapshot of experiences, “Mediterranea” largely operates in a minor key, and at times plays more like a collage of the two struggling men’s plight rather than a cogent narrative. Nevertheless, bolstered by Carpignano’s command over the naturalistic environment and the main duo’s utterly believable performances, the film builds an intriguing scenario that holds tight early on due to the stakes at hand.
“Killing Them Safely” (November 20)
Originally titled “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle” when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, Nick Berardini’s “Killing Them Safely” is a fascinating documentary about the history of the infamous taser gun. The film explores the grey areas of human behavior, outside the black-and-white definitions of “good guys” and “bad guys,” especially when dealing with myriad reports of taser-related deaths at the hands of police officers. Providing a deep-dive into the world of corporate culture, self-interest and what happens when powerful people are forced to confront the weight of their decisions that lead to devastating consequences, “Killing Them Safely” questions and mediates on our societal fascination with magic bullets.