This November brings Oscar contenders, a David Bowie biopic, and lots of Christmas fare

Photos of actors Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Kathryn Newton, and Johnny Flynn in the films Hillbilly Elegy, The Christmas Chronicles 2, Freaky, and Stardust
Clockwise from left: Stardust (Photo: IFC Films), Freaky (Photo: Universal), The Christmas Chronicles 2 (Photo: Joe Lederer / fotojo), Hillbilly Elegy (Photo: Lacey Terrell/Netflix)
Graphic: Allison Corr

Those determined to see a new movie on the big screen this month may have a few options, as a Blumhouse horror comedy, a couple of Oscar hopefuls, and a DreamWorks animated sequel all have theatrical release dates lined up in November. Of course, there’s no hard guarantee, during this very strange time, that any of the movies scheduled to open actually will. You can probably bank, however, on the numerous films headed for streaming platforms, digital services, VOD, and virtual theaters—among them, a large crop of Netflix holiday offerings. Keep reading to find out what’s coming to a living room—and, yes, some theaters—near you. And before trekking out to see a movie on the big screen, please read up on the health risks.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. I also write fiction, edit textbooks, and help run SportsAlcohol.com, a pop culture blog and podcast. Star Wars prequels forever!

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2 / 25

Let Him Go

Let Him Go

Select theaters November 6

From the director of Monte Carlo and The Family Stone comes a 1960s-set thriller about a retired Montana sheriff (Kevin Costner) and, uh, a retired Montana sheriff’s wife (Diane Lane) who must travel to the lawless wasteland of North Dakota to rescue their grandson from the clutches of the sinister Weboy family. On the one hand, this looks generically sleepy; on the other, it promises a chance to see the great Lesley Manville ham it up in an American accent and televangelist hairdo. Plus, the characters are going to keep saying “Weboy,” which sounds exactly like “wee boy.”

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3 / 25

Proxima

Proxima

VOD and digital platforms November 6

Eva Green becomes the latest star to blast into orbit with Proxima, where she plays a French astronaut suiting up for a Mars-probe mission that will separate her from her young daughter (Zélie Boulant-Lemesle) for a full year. Writer-director Alice Winocour’s story focuses more on the run-up to the mission than space travel itself; accordingly, the trailer has echoes of the emotional and training-heavy First Man, as well as the misbegotten Lucy In The Sky, with which Proxima shared a berth at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival. Even if the movie doesn’t live up to its promise, it looks like a strong showcase for Green, who is almost always a highlight of whatever she appears in.

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4 / 25

The Dark And The Wicked

The Dark And The Wicked

VOD and digital platforms November 6

The Strangers director Bryan Bertino tackles a different sort of home invasion with The Dark And The Wicked. This time, the outside forces hellbent on destroying an isolated family are supernatural in nature, as estranged siblings played by Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr. discover when they return to their ancestral homestead to care for their dying father. Unrelentingly nihilistic and brutally bloody, it’s a horror film that lives up to its title.

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5 / 25

Jungleland

Jungleland

Select theaters November 6; VOD and digital platforms November 10

Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell subject themselves to comparisons to any number of other fractious cinematic boxing brothers in this 2019 TIFF debut. Directed by Max Winkler, Jungleland follows O’Connell’s good-hearted boxer Lion and his scuzzy manager-brother (Hunnam) as they navigate the world of low-rent boxing and high-rent debts owed to a local crime boss, played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors. Jessica Barden co-stars, alongside the ghost of every other fraternal-focused boxing movie ever made.

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6 / 25

Freaky

Freaky

Select theaters November 13

Three years ago, Blumhouse launched an unlikely franchise with Happy Death Day, which put a slasher spin on Groundhog Day. Now they’re at it again with Freaky, a reimagining of the body-swap comedy that adds a little hack-and-slash horror to go with the humor. Despite the title, writer-director Christopher Landon (who made both Death Day films) appears to be taking his cues not from a certain Jodie Foster and/or Lindsay Lohan hit but from the Rob Schneider variation. Only here, the grown man who switches places with a teen girl (Kathryn Newton) is a serial killer played by Vince Vaughn. It seems like a reasonably fun tweak on an oft-recycled formula; let’s hope the cast brings the right manic comic energy, a.k.a. the Jessica Rothe factor.

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7 / 25

Ammonite

Ammonite

Select theaters November 13

Referring to Ammonite as Portrait Of A Lady On Fire’s more buttoned-up English cousin may be a shallow comparison, but it’s not an inaccurate one. In writer-director Francis Lee’s follow-up to God’s Own Country, Kate Winslet plays 19th-century paleontologist Mary Anning, a real person whose personal life is the source of much creative speculation here. Saoirse Ronan, meanwhile, is Charlotte Murchison, a listless noblewoman whose persistent companionship gradually melts Anning’s icy heart. The sex scenes are explicit, but this is otherwise a rather bloodless drama, heavy on obvious symbolism.

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8 / 25

Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds

Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds

Apple TV + November 13

If you’ve ever wished that you could go on a road trip with Werner Herzog, then Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds will scratch that itch, at least vicariously. At times, this Apple TV+ production plays like a series of home movies, as Herzog and his Into The Inferno collaborator Clive Oppenheimer travel the world learning about meteors and the role they’ve played in shaping life on Earth. Because this is Herzog, however, footage of him and Oppenhemier attending museums and interviewing scientists comes accompanied by especially thoughtful voiceover—and one unexpected but charming dad joke.

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9 / 25

I Am Greta

I Am Greta

Hulu November 13 

Greta Thunberg has no interest in warming your heart. The 17-year-old climate activist has expressed frequent disdain for politicians who seek to use her youth and passion for photo ops and platitudes, rather than real change on the environmental issues that she’s devoted her young life to. From its trailers, Hulu’s new Thunberg documentary, I Am Greta, seems a little more susceptible to the sentimental than its subject. But it also keeps its eye on the most fascinating aspects of Thunberg’s story: Her self-described “laser-like” focus and willingness to confront those who’ve dropped the ball on climate change so badly that they’ve had to rely on a child to come pick the damn thing back up.

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10 / 25

The Climb

The Climb

Select theaters November 13

The title refers to a long bike ride embarked upon by Kyle (Kyle Marvin) and his best man, Mike (Michael Angelo Covino), in the opening scene of this unusually ambitious indie comedy. But it could also describe, in more abstract terms, the thrust of the narrative—an uphill attempt to mend a friendship after one party shatters it with a betrayal. The Climb, which Covino directed and also co-wrote with his costar, was supposed to hit theaters in March, before the pandemic scuttled those plans. Whether or not it’s worth the risk of a theater visit (is anything?), this is a sharp, funny, and unpredictable film, made with a virtuosic confidence uncommon to most seriocomic American gabfests.

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11 / 25

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers

Select theaters November 13; Apple TV + December 11

Gorgeously sketched, this new feature from The Secret Of Kells animator Tomm Moore centers on a young girl (Honor Kneafsey) whose plans for a quiet life of killing wolves is disrupted when she finds out she has the ability to transform into one. Co-starring Sean Bean and Eva Whittaker, Wolfwalkers looks to marry a story of self-acceptance and sustainability with some jaw-droppingly pretty 2D animation; it was a hit on the mostly virtual fall festival circuit before being picked up for theatrical distribution by GKIDS.

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12 / 25

Sound Of Metal

Sound Of Metal

Select theaters November 20; Amazon Prime December 4

Riz Ahmed scores a much deserved leading role as Ruben, a former addict and hardcore drummer who begins to lose his hearing, in this recovery drama from Place Beyond The Pines screenwriter Darius Marder. The plot seems conventional to a fault, but reviews from festivals emphasized the intensity of Ahmed’s performance and also an immersive sound design intended to place audiences into the character’s cone of aural distress. Olivia Cooke, Lauren Ridloff, and the great French actor Mathieu Amalric costar.

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13 / 25

Run

Run

Hulu November 20

Sarah Paulson fans who burned through Ratched in its first weekend are in luck: Hulu has snatched up this thriller, once slotted for a Mother Day’s theatrical release, about a physically disabled teen (Kiera Allen) who begins to suspect that her overprotective mom (Paulson) is keeping a very big, very dark secret from her. Searching writer-director Aneesh Chaganty drops the screenlife format for his sophomore feature, while still building another suspense machine around the relationship between a concerned parent and their high-school-aged kid.

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14 / 25

Vanguard

Vanguard

Select theaters November 20

We can’t really figure out what this Jackie Chan vehicle is supposed to be about, though it does seem to involve hyenas, jet skis, hoverboards, and the worst CGI car crash this side of Along Came A Spider. While the idea of a reunion with director and action choreographer Stanley Tong (Rumble In The Bronx, Police Story 3) sounds promising in theory, Chan is now 66, and is mostly here to lend his charisma to the kind of exhausting, schlocky VFX that are the stock in trade of today’s Chinese blockbusters. Given the choice, we’d probably go with the even more ludicrous-looking, Russian-made Iron Mask (a.k.a. Viy 2: Journey To China), which features Chan, a powerfully mustachioed Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the late Rutger Hauer. It hits VOD the same day.

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15 / 25

Collective

Collective

Select theaters and VOD November 20

Corruption is the subject of more than a few celebrated Romanian dramas that have made their way Stateside. Collective takes a disturbingly nonfictional angle on that recurring topic, following as it does a group of journalists investigating pharmaceutical misconduct—and a government cover-up of the same—in the aftermath of a fire at a Bucharest nightclub that left dozens dead. The film, which has been earning raves since it premiered at Venice Film last year, accumulates outrage as it gains new access; by the end, it’s become a portrait of unconscionable negligence in the face of a major health crisis—which is to say, one of the year’s most damnably timely documentaries.

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16 / 25

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy

Netflix November 24

J.D. Vance’s specious conservative bestseller Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir Of A Family And Culture In Crisis has reached its final form; the only real surprise is this inevitable movie adaptation is directed by Ron Howard. Given the lack of Rod Dreher and John Podhoretz pull quotes in the trailer, it’s safe to say that Netflix isn’t pitching the film at the kind of American Conservative readers that made the book a hit. Instead, the streaming giant is leaning into the broader appeal of watching Amy Adams and Glenn Close yell at each other in wigs in what appears to be a lazy SNL parody of Oscar bait.

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17 / 25

The Croods: A New Age

The Croods: A New Age

Select theaters November 25

Back in prehistoric (or at least pre-pandemic) times, DreamWorks Animation used to crank out multiple sequels and prospective franchise-starters per year. The follow-up to their 2013 cave-people hit The Croods comes after a leaner run (including some time where the project appeared to have been called off), and an animated Netflix series (Dawn Of The Croods). Like the stone-age family (voiced by returning cast members Ryan Reynolds, Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, and Clark Duke) acclimating to a new phase of evolution, the movie emerges to explore a vastly altered landscape. Will theaters even stay open long enough to play it? One sign that some might: Croods distributor Universal Pictures signed a deal with exhibitor AMC allowing quicker turnaround from theatrical releases to VOD, suggesting that this movie might get a token theatrical run at Thanksgiving followed by a quick home-viewing debut a few weeks later. So yes, Nicolas Cage might have his first wide theatrical release since, well, the last time he contributed a voice to a cartoon.

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18 / 25

Happiest Season

Happiest Season

Hulu November 25

Happiest Season
Happiest Season
Photo: Sony/Hulu

Happiest Season was slated to be the rare same-sex romantic comedy to receive a splashy, wide release from a big studio—a major event at a time when the genre has largely resettled on streaming services. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made other plans, and the new movie from director/cowriter Clea Duvall is heading to Hulu for the holiday season—a better alternative, at least, than waiting for next Christmas. Kristen Stewart plays Abby, who plans a holiday proposal to girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis), only to realize that Harper isn’t yet out to her parents. Maybe Duvall’s own acting career helped her corral such a terrific cast: Mary Steenburgen, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Dan Levy, and Victor Garber all turn up to rescue the holiday rom-com from the Hallmark Channel.

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19 / 25

Stardust

Stardust

Select theaters November 25

As soon as David Bowie passed away in January 2016, the clock started ticking on the race to produce a biopic. First out of the gate is Stardust, which zeroes in on a short, formative period of Bowie’s vast career: his first trip to America, back in 1971. The unenviable task of embodying one of rock’s most charismatic chameleons falls to Johnny Flynn, who has worked as both a singer and an actor —though singing may not figure much into this movie, which doesn’t have the rights to use any of Bowie’s famous tunes. Stardust also doesn’t have approval of the Bowie family—but then again, the musician-approved likes of Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t exactly due their inspirations proud. It’s too bad that Gabriel Range’s film looks more like middle-of-the-road mythmaking than the unauthorized experimentation that would better fit its subject.

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20 / 25

The Christmas Chronicles 2

The Christmas Chronicles 2

Netflix November 25

Kurt Russell slips back into his SILF suit for this second installment in Chris Columbus’ streaming holiday adventure series. Now accompanied full-time by Goldie Hawn’s Mrs. Claus, Russell-Claus finds himself forced to fend off Hunt For The Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison, playing a rival holiday spirit hoping to take the big man down. Anyway, this is a movie in which Goldie Hawn apparently blows up a bunch of reindeer with a magical Christmas cookie; we’re not sure what else needs to be said.

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21 / 25

Uncle Frank

Uncle Frank

Amazon Prime November 25

Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood, American Beauty) returns to features with this apparent throwback to the heyday of the Sundance dramedy. Set in the early 1970s, the film stars Paul Bettany as a gay literature professor who gets an unannounced visit from his college-bound niece (Sophia Lillis); when a family member dies, the two set off on a road trip back to their South Carolina hometown, with the uncle’s partner in tow. There is a high probability that life lessons will be learned, and aspersions will be cast at small-minded, prejudicial types (like, say, the kind who might judge a movie’s worth based on its trailer).

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22 / 25

Mank

Mank

Select theaters November; Netflix December

In his first film since Gone Girl, David Fincher takes on a deeply personal project: a black-and-white biographical drama about Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) that was written by the director’s late father, Jack Fincher. That the VFX master of the meticulously underlit should take on a behind-the-scenes story about the most technically accomplished (and special-effects-filled) film of its time is almost too perfect. A leaked early draft of the script has been criticized for its portrayal of Orson Welles (Tom Burke) and its reliance on some discredited source material. But we have a feeling that Fincher isn’t out to deliver a dry history lesson.

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23 / 25

Plus:

Plus:

Dreamland
Dreamland
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Netflix accelerates what’s sure to be a truly exasperating two months of holiday-themed content with the snowless yuletide rom-com Operation Christmas Drop (Netflix 11/5). Presumably much less heartwarming, Kindred (select theaters, digital platforms, and VOD 11/6) places an expecting mother into the clutches of her deceased husband’s malicious family. Two closeted teenagers in the Ireland of the 1990s pretend to date each other in the semi-autobiographical Dating Amber (VOD and digital platforms 11/10). The documentary Coded Bias (virtual theaters 11/11) revisits the disturbing discovery that racism is baked into facial recognition algorithms. Veteran documentarian Manfred Kirchheimer returns with Free Time (virtual theaters 11/11), a B&W collage of New York City footage shot in the late 1950s. Netflix pulls out some bigger stars, like Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, and Ricky Martin, for another November holiday offering, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Netflix 11/13). Sophia Loren returns to the screen after a decade away to star in her son’s new film, The Life Ahead (Netflix 11/13), as a Holocaust survivor in Italy. Mel Gibson is a gun-toting Santa Claus in action-comedy Fatman (select theaters 11/13; VOD and digital platforms 11/17). Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding finds dislocation and love in Vietnam as the protagonist of Monsoon (select theaters, virtual theaters, VOD 11/13). Malin Akerman joins an underground fight club in the comedy Chick Fight (select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms 11/13). Crime thriller Echo Boomers (select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms 11/13) enlists Patrick Schwarzenegger and Michael Shannon to dramatize a true story of Chicago college kids turned thieves. The Giant (VOD 11/13) casts Odessa Young as a teenager whose small Georgia town is plagued by a rash of serial killings. Not to be confused with a different recent thriller of the same title, Dreamland (VOD and digital platforms 11/17) features Margot Robbie as a bank robber on the run through Great Depression-era Texas. Experimental documentary Cemetery (MUBI 11/18) follows an elephant during a natural disaster. Vanessa Hudgens signs up for more holiday-themed mistaken-identity hijinks in the sequel The Princess Switch: Switched Again (Netflix 11/19). Stephen Dorff is an MMA champ and deadbeat dad in Embattled (select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms 11/20). Christine Baranski is the modern Scrooge villain of Dolly Parton’s Christmas On the Square (Netflix 11/22). Bill & Ted star Alex Winter directed a documentary about Frank Zappa (select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms 11/22). And The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos made a new short film with Matt Dillon, “Nimic” (MUBI 11/27).

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24 / 25

Postponed:

Postponed:

No Time To Die
No Time To Die
Photo: MGM

No Time To Die, the first major movie pushed back because of COVID, has been pushed again—it’s now slated for April 2021, a year after its original release date. No Marvel movies will open in 2020, as both Black Widow and The Eternals have moved to next year. Disney is now taking the Mulan route with the new Pixar movie, Soul, which will be available to rent on Disney+ on Christmas Day. Another of the Mouse House’s upcoming animated projects, Raya And The Last Dragon, is now tentatively opening in March. Kaiju title fight Godzilla Vs. Kong will go down in May. King Richard, a biopic about Venus and Serena Williams’ father, has shifted to next November. And Patricia Highsmith adaptation Deep Water, starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, has relocated to August.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. I also write fiction, edit textbooks, and help run SportsAlcohol.com, a pop culture blog and podcast. Star Wars prequels forever!