This November is about to offer quite the selection to movie-goers, as made clear by the films listed on indieWIRE's November calendar. As an extension of our fall movie preview, indieWIRE has decided to offer the second of three monthly "must-see" lists to make cinematic decision-making as easy as possible. It's also useful simply as an update of the information provided in the fall preview, which was written at a point when much of the fall offerings had yet to be seen. But Venice, Toronto and Telluride changed that, and now buzz is clearer and indieWIRE's "criticWIRE" subsection has many-a-critic-grade for almost all the fall films. So with that in mind, here are the seven best bets for this month:
What's The Deal? Let's get these biopic heavyweights out of the way first and foremost, because they are a mighty duo. "Speech" finds director Tom Hooper ("The Damned United") and a cast including Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, taking on King George VI, who is plagued by a horrible stutter that makes him unfit to be king, while "Hours" has Danny Boyle following up "Slumdog Millionaire" (and working with "Slumdog" scribe Simon Beaufoy) in a film James Franco where plays Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who becomes trapped under a boulder and is forced to amputate his own arm. Both debuted in Telluride and Toronto, and both have been widely acclaimed since.
Why Are They "Must Sees"? Both "Speech" and "Hours" are essentially assured slots in the 2010 best picture lineup, and stars Firth and Franco are set to duel it out for the best actor Oscar. If one wants in on the awards season conversation, this is the place to start.
3. Four Lions (November 5, Drafthouse Films)
What's The Deal? The first film released through Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse, this British import from director Chris Morris won over Sundance audiences (and the British Independent Film Award nominating committee) when it premiered there earlier this year. A Jihad satire following a group of Jihadi Islamist terrorists from Sheffield, England, "Lions" should put much needed satirical water on the fire currently surrounding Islamophobia and the 'Ground Zero' mosque.
Who's Already Seen It? 16 critics gave "Four Lions" an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page
Why is it a "Must See"? With its rapid-fire dialogue and sharp political satire, "Lions" is this year's answer to "In The Loop." indieWIRE's Eric Kohn called it "almost a masterpiece," saying that Morris "crafts an unusually endearing chemistry shared by his goofball freedom fighters that harkens back to "The Three Musketeers" in its rudimentary entertainment value, while at the same time delivering a bleak backdrop that informs each scene." Check out the trailer:
4. White Material (November 19, IFC Films)
What's The Deal? Venerable French director Claire Denis follows up her lauded "35 Shots of Rum" with this story of Maria (Isabelle Huppert), a failing coffee plantation owner in an African country increasingly torn apart by escalating civil war violence. A debut on the fall festival circuit last year, IFC Films is bringing "Material" to America this month.
Who's Already Seen It? 32 critics gave "White Material" an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page
Why is it a "Must See"? It's directed by Claire Denis and it stars Isabelle Huppert. That's really all one should need. But if more is needed for whatever reason, read indieWIRE's glowing review out of last year's Toronto Film Festival.
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5. Fair Game (November 5, Summit Entertainment)
What's The Deal? "Game" is Doug Liman's fictionalized account of the 2003 outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts) and the impact it had on her marriage to United States Foreign Service diplomat Joe Wilson (Sean Penn). "This is what I've been trying to do my whole career," Liman said when the film premiered in Cannes, "To try and come up with films that are both entertaining and meaningful."
Who's Already Seen It? 19 critics gave "Fair Game" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page
Why is it a "Must See"? The film received somewhat mixed responses in Cannes, but the cut of the film going out into cinemas this Friday is a huge improvement, says Anne Thompson, and one that very much warrants your attention. Check out the film's trailer:
6. Tiny Furniture (November 12, IFC Films)
What's The Deal? This year's SXSW Film Festival brought us many discoveries, as perhaps best exemplified with director Lena Dunham's self-portrait, in which the director plays a version of herself wandering around New York City in post-graduate limbo.
Who's Already Seen It? 13 critics gave "Tiny Furniture" an average of B on the film's criticWIRE page.
Why Is It a Must See? Winner of SXSW's top juried prize, and thrice nominated at this year's Gotham Awards, "Furniture" feels like November's best bet for a true American indie. "'Tiny Furniture' works because the production values maintain a certain precision that transcends the meandering nature of the plot," Eric Kohn writes in this review. Dunham and her family engage in emotionally charged confrontations that retain legitimacy because they arise naturally from the circumstances at hand."
7. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer (November 5, Magnolia Pictures)
What's The Deal? Chronicling the rise and fall of Elliot Spitzer, the former New York State governor and attorney general, this doc from Alex Gibney extends farther than simple tabloid headlines to uncover some hidden agendas that may have helped topple Spitzer. "Was this a political hit job?" asks the film.
Who's Already Seen It 11 critics gave "Client 9" an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page
Why Are They "Must Sees"? "The film's biggest coup and its most compelling asset is the participation of Spitzer," Anthony Kaufman wrote during the Tribeca Film Festival, where "Client 9" screened as a "work-in-progress, "who looks directly into the camera, offering frank and forthright accounts of his political struggles and moral failings. Gibney portrays Spitzer in shades of gray, as both a righteous fighter for the common man and yet also a vociferous attack dog that can't control his temper." Kaufman makes clear that anyone interested in finding out the story behind Spitzer's fall from grace should check out "Client 9." Here's the film's trailer:
Check out indieWIRE's November calendar for a full list of titles, including other worthy films like Nigel Cole's "Made in Dagenham", Ondi Timoner's "Cool It", Damien Chazelle's Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench", Joseph Infantolino's "Helena From The Wedding", and Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro's "Me Too".