We're neck-deep in the prestige-movie season, i.e. when a handful of movies made for [gasp] adults join the usual year-round I.P. blockbusters. Yes, there are new Marvel and DC movies heading down the pike, perfect for those who like their superhero films in both bright-and-peppy and dark-and-dour flavors. But there's also one of the year's best romance movies, a there-goeth-the-great-man biopic, an Agatha Christie murder mystery, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age movie and a chatty three-men-and-a-coffin character study on deck. All this, plus a black-and-white movie by Louis C.K. that will have you squirming in your seat. Here's what you'll be seeing at the movies this month.
Call Me By Your Name (Nov. 24th)
There's a certain standoffishness between teenager Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and the stripping grad student Oliver (specimen of human physical perfection Armie Hammer) studying under Elio's professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg). But over the course of one idyllic Italian summer in the early 1980s, an unspoken lust blossoms into an affair charged by overwhelming passion – and when they're finally act on the feelings they harbor for one another, director Luca Guadaganino conjures romance and eroticism between the boys with seldom-attained intensity. Both intimate and frankly sexual, distinctly queer and yet speaking to a wellspring of emotion anyone can access, it's a stunning, trembling portrait of first love.
Coco (Nov. 22nd)
Disney-Pixar heads south of the border for this Mexico-set musical steeped in the culture of Día de Muertos. Plucky Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) aspires to greatness as a guitarist, just like his personal hero and great-great-granddad Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). His old-school family, however, has no patience for his picking. A neon-fringed odyssey through the Land of the Dead sets Miguel, his beloved Xolo dog and a trickster spirit named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) on the path up the boy's family tree, where further magical secrets hide. The best Pixar movies hit a rare trifecta of humor, heart and bracing originality; the trailer for their newest suggests we're in for another canon-worthy toon.
Darkest Hour (Nov. 22nd)
Gary Oldman has already knocked critics flat with his portrayal of an imperious, grumpy and fearless Winston Churchill, as the Prime Minister steels his nation for a final reckoning with Hitler's forces in WWII. Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas all play figures in his immediate orbit – but Oldman, naturally, owns the show as he weighs the terrible responsibility of leadership against his limits as a mere mortal. The "troubled genius" subgenre is full of hit-and-miss entries, but the star and director Joe Wright know exactly how to balance dramatic momentum and bio-historical heft. You may now start backing up the dump truck full of awards gold.
I Love You, Daddy (Nov. 17th)
Batten down the hatches: Louis C.K. made a cringe comedy about Woody Allen. Kind of. John Malkovich portrays Leslie Goodwin, a fictitious filmmaking legend with a taste for nubile young women; C.K. portrays a creative type who defends Goodwin's scruples. Then his own Lolita of a daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz, in a career high) starts spending a little too much time with the old lech. Exquisitely photographed in black and white and as painfully hilarious as anything C.K.'s done, the tangled satirical meta-politics of the film are bound to eclipse everything else about it. But you will not have a better time squirming at the multiplex this season.
Justice League (Nov. 17th)
Even as 2017 winds down, we've still got time for a couple more superhero epics. This massively scaled team-up pits the nefarious Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) against Batfleck, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, newly minted Aqua-hunk Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller as hyperspeed wiseass Flash and Ray Fisher in the role of team heavy Cyborg. Also somehow in the mix is Henry Cavill's Superman, last seen dead, with no word as to how he might make a return. At this point, those familiar with the cinema of Zack Snyder know what to expect: sound, fury, loads of CGI and probably a rousing speech about the dark burdens of power or two.
Lady Bird (Nov. 3rd)
Everybody knew a girl like Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson growing up: smart-alecky, rebellious, too cool for school. Saoirse Ronan has cast a spell on festival audiences as the title teen in this coming-of-age drama, the solo directorial debut from Greta Gerwig. It's senior year in 2002, and McPherson is getting ready to flee her NorCal home for college while juggling competing crushes (stars on the rise Timothee Chalamet and Lucas Hedges) and battling with her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf). It has a little something for everyone: wit, feeling, a feminist bent and several Dave Matthews Band needle-drops.
Last Flag Flying (Nov. 3rd)
Both a follow-up (sort of) and a love letter to Hal Ashby's 1975 comedy-drama The Last Detail, Richard Linklater follows a trio of soldiers in middle age, coping with the lingering effects of their own experience in war while bemoaning the fate awaiting the next generation. Vietnam vet Doc Shepard (Steve Carell) has just lost his son in the Iraq War; he enlists old military buddies Sal (Bryan Cranston) and Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) for moral support in transporting the body and preparing for the funeral. What follows is a buddy comedy, a road movie, a meditative treatise on those who serve our country and a bona fide acting showcase for its three leads.
Murder on the Orient Express (Nov. 10th)
Agatha Christie's1934 novel featuring recurring sleuth Hercule Poirot stands as the ne plus ultra of the murder mystery – no less that Kenneth Branagh now takes a crack at adapting the legendary whodunnit involving one particularly perilous investigation aboard an opulent international transport. The director does double duty by also playing the famous detective; the rest of the starry cast includes [deep breath] Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Penélope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Derek Jacobi and Michelle Pfeiffer. It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry and, apparently, to commit a ghastly murder.
Thor: Ragnarok (Nov. 3rd)
Have you heard the good news? Superheroes are allowed to have fun again! So sayeth New Zealand's Taika Waititi, who steers the latest solo film for the musclebound Asgardian towards the realm of buddy comedy. Stranded on an alien planet, the Thunder God's ordered to fight for his life in gladiatorial combat against his mean, green cohort the Hulk; of course the pair will eventually team up and devise an escape plan. Meanwhile, back in the death goddess Hela (Cate Blanchett, looking like an evil goth seraphim) has escaped her prison. No, she's not happy. Yes, our steroidal heroes are headed to the rescue.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Nov. 10th)
The only thing the fall movie season has been missing is an irate Frances McDormand kicking a teen in the groin – until now. The Oscar-winner plays a mother who refuses to take "your murdered daughter's case has gone cold" for an answer from her rural hometown's police department. So she puts up some aggressively-worded billboards aimed at the fuzz – and the shit starts flying. Woody Harrelson supports as the police chief; Sam Rockwell shines as a racist, immature deputy. A playwright by trade, writer-director Martin McDonagh's been rightly praised for his virtuosically profane dialogue, and his new effort crams as many four-letter words as humanly possible. But it's the poignant finish that sticks with you.