The return of an enormous young adult franchise dominates multiplex screens in November as the steady stream of awards candidates continues unabated. In between Spectre and Star Wars, it’s possible that The Hunger Games finale might struggle to find purchase at the box office, but there’s plenty for cinemagoers to see elsewhere.
Counter-programming in the autumnal blockbuster period presents a charming British comedy, a series of weighty dramas with major Oscar pedigree and the bizarre spectacle of Nicholas Hoult pissing on James Corden.
Here are ten films you should head out and see this month in UK cinemas.
10. Kill Your Friends (Nov 6)
Nicholas Hoult raised plenty of eyebrows this year with his terrific portrayal of pale warboy Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road. He’s raising them again with a dark role in John Niven adaptation Kill Your Friends, in which he plays a music biz A&R man with a rather sociopathic glint in his eye.
Hoult is Steven Stelfox – a man barrelling his way through the Britpop scene largely by chance and with a choice barrage of expletives. Once the boom period begins to wane, though, he is forced down even darker paths in order to preserve his lifestyle of success and excess.
The film has received rather mixed reviews from critics, but Hoult has been singled out for praise for his ferocious performance. At a time of year when glossy biopics fill cinemas, something with a significantly harder edge is definitely there to be welcomed.
9. The Hallow (Nov 13)
On the strength of debut film The Hallow – which is out in limited UK cinemas this month – director Corin Hardy is about to start work behind the camera of the remake of The Crow. With such a big name project handed to a relative newcomer, it’s fair to say that there must be something in The Hallow.
Dealing with Irish folklore, the film follows a family of English conservationists who move to a small home in an Irish forest. Despite the warnings of locals, including Michael Smiley, the family find themselves being plagued by beasties and demonic forces.
Arriving slightly too late for the Halloween crowd, The Hallow is likely to struggle for box office numbers in UK cinemas. However, it could win itself an audience on DVD, particularly as the director’s star continues to ascend.
8. The Lady in the Van (Nov 13)
Few things are more British than the work of Alan Bennett. One of those things is the oeuvre of Maggie Smith, who is the epitome of a national treasure. The combination of these two for The Lady in the Van produces a uniquely British confection that is dry, sweet and often exceptionally funny.
Smith plays the cantankerous Miss Shepherd – a homeless woman who ends up parking her van on Bennett’s (Alex Jennings) driveway. She ends up staying for 15 years as Bennett contemplates whether to write about her, arguing with himself in a witty device that enables two versions of the playwright to appear.
The Lady in the Van is a sweet, good-natured film that’s as comfortable and charming as a cup of tea. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but it’s a film that warms the soul and induces plenty of chuckles.
7. Black Mass (Nov 27)
Johnny Depp is in need of a major career rehabilitation after a disastrous string of poorly received high-profile roles in films like The Lone Ranger and Transcendence. He returns to form in solid fashion with the role of notorious gangster Whitey Bulger in crime drama Black Mass.
The film, from Out of the Furnace director Scott Cooper, explores Bulger’s relationship with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). Connolly’s help allows Bulger to maintain a stranglehold over the Boston underworld, whilst his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) makes waves as a senator.
Black Mass is a deeply interesting film, which eschews the blood and bluster of many crime thrillers in favour of operating as a drama and character study.
6. Bridge of Spies (Nov 27)
Steven Spielberg’s collaborations with Tom Hanks have produced some of the best films of the last few decades. The Beard has teamed with Hanks once again for tense drama Bridge of Spies, set at the height of the Cold War and boasting a script polished by the Coen Brothers.
Hanks plays a kind-hearted lawyer who is tasked with negotiating the release of a US pilot in exchange for Mark Rylance’s captive KGB operative. It’s an emotive story of distrust and paranoia, based on real events.
Bridge of Spies has received acclaim from critics since its American cinema release last month and looks poised to be a major player in the upcoming awards season scrum. With Hanks and Spielberg taking centre stage, it can’t fail.
5. Steve Jobs (Nov 13)
Steve Jobs has proved to be a popular subject for cinema since the tech icon and Apple co-founder passed away in 2011. Whether it’s documentaries from the likes of Alex Gibney or disastrous dramas starring Ashton Kutcher, Hollywood is fascinated with Jobs and the complex character he was.
In this latest drama, helmed by Danny Boyle from an Aaron Sorkin script that was first earmarked for David Fincher as director, Michael Fassbender plays Jobs over three of the memorable product launches that made the man a household name. Kate Winslet plays marketing exec Joanna, whilst Seth Rogen is Jobs’ co-founder Steve Wozniak.
Mixed reviews have greeted Steve Jobs, but the amount of talent on show both in front of the camera and behind it cannot be ignored. With Sorkin’s words and Fassbender’s delivery, this could be a high watermark of Jobs on the big screen.
4. The Good Dinosaur (Nov 27)
Things are going to be tough for The Good Dinosaur. Set to be released in the same year as Inside Out, which is being lauded as potentially Pixar’s best film ever, it could find itself as a bit of an also-ran in the studio’s impressive filmography. Hopefully that won’t be the case.
The film’s conceit is simple. What if the dinosaurs were never wiped out? Our central character, Arlo, is an Apatosaurus who befriends a young human child in an inversion of the usual human-pet relationship. Standard Pixar sweetness ensues as the two disparate species bond.
The Good Dinosaur has been delayed repeatedly as a result of story problems, but the finished product is receiving positive buzz from reviewers. It’s just sad that it will likely end up as not even the best Pixar film of the year.
3. Brooklyn (Nov 6)
Occasionally a film comes along that looks so set up to be awards bait that it’s a genuine surprise when it’s something considerably more than that. Heartfelt, nuanced drama Brooklyn is one of those films.
At the centre of the film is Irish girl Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan, who leaves her homeland for the titular New York borough in the 1950s. She is helped with settling in by the Brando-esque Emory Cohen, but soon finds a tragic event tugging her back across the Atlantic where home comforts, and Domhnall Gleeson’s alternative lover, await.
Brooklyn is a film of remarkable simplicity that works as a result of its commitment to character and nuance. The central performances are excellent and there’s emotion on tap. If this doesn’t perform well at the Oscars, there’s something very wrong.
2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (Nov 19)
It’s finally here. Harry Potter ended. Twilight finished. Now, their successor as the young adult juggernaut du jour – The Hunger Games – is set to come to a close as well. With an assault on the Capitol taking up the majority of this final entry, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 looks set to be a hell of a finale.
Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss, dealing with the fact that Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is a shell of his former self as a result of the Capitol’s brain-washing tactics. Under the command of Coin (Julianne Moore), Katniss leads an onslaught on Snow and his regime, battling through the booby-trapped city.
Despite brutal subject matter and complex relationships, The Hunger Games has become a major box office sensation. It remains to be seen whether Mockingjay – Part 2 will succeed in the window between Spectre and Star Wars, but it should bring the franchise to a satisfying conclusion.
1. Carol (Nov 27)
After the Cannes Film Festival this year, one name was on just about everybody’s list – Carol. Todd Haynes’ drama about forbidden love has made a hell of an impact since it was first screened, leading to a massive amount of awards buzz ahead of the film’s UK release.
Cate Blanchett plays married Carol, who finds herself enamoured with modest shop girl Rooney Mara, with whom she starts a secret lesbian relationship. Their forbidden romance makes waves in both of their lives and complicates every facet of their existence.
Carol received a standing ovation when it screened at Cannes, before competing for the Palme d’Or and winning the Best Actress prize for Rooney Mara, shared with Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon Roi. It has received rapturous responses wherever it has travelled and should achieve the same when it finally arrives on these shores this month.
Which films are you planning to see in November 2015? Are there any I missed or any you will definitely be avoiding? Let me know in the comments section.