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November movie guide: Large-scale filmmaking epic Napoleon , The Hunger Games and The Marvels

Ridkey Scott and Joaquin Phoenix reunite for the much-anticipated epic.

Source: Columbia Pictures/Apple Films

British filmmaker Ridley Scott has been described as having the “very best eye in the business” for films such as Alien, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Thelma and Louise.

Along the way, he’s collected a wall of awards and stars on the pavement, and at least 15 of his films have had an Oscar winner feature in the cast (including Russell Crowe for his role as Maximus Decimus Meridius in the Roman Empire classic).

Now the legendary director has reunited with Gladiator‘s psychopathic bad guy Emperor Commodus, Joaquin Phoenix, after two decades for some large scale epic filmmaking with his own Waterloo iteration, Napoleon.

According to IMDb, Scott sat with Phoenix for 10 days straight to work on the story, “all day, talking scene by scene … In a sense, we rehearsed. Absolutely detail by detail”.

And what they’ve come up with promises to be a masterclass in filmmaking.

The storyline follows Phoenix as Bonaparte in a relentless journey to power through the prism of his addictive, volatile relationship with his one true love, Empress Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby (Mission Impossible franchise), showcasing his visionary military and political tactics in some of the most dynamic practical battle sequences ever filmed.

After delivering two films back-to-back in 2021 with The Last Duel (starring Adam Driver) and House of Gucci (Lady Gaga, Adam Driver), Scott is ready to launch Napoleon over the Thanksgiving weekend in the US (in cinemas in Australia on November 23).

More than 40 years after his directorial debut, 85-year-old Scott, whose films are described by BAFTA as crossing the boundaries of style and genre, may well be watching Oscar glory come his way in March next year.

Phoenix, who won best actor for the villain-origin story Joker in 2019 –  and was nominated for Gladiator, Walk the Line and The Master – will be on the best actor list, as will Kirby for best supporting actress, who picked up her inaugural nomination in 2020 for Pieces of a Woman.

Scott has collaborated with Apple Studios (which in turn is teaming up with Sony) for the first time, so if you miss the three-hour big-screen experience, there’s always the second-best option for such an historic epic on the TV at home or laptop on a long-haul flight.

(A four-hour director’s cut will be released on Apple TV+).

If you’re not content to watch a blood-thirsty account of the French emperor’s on-field battles, and his adult-rated rise to power alongside Joséphine, November is shaping up with a film noir (which is captivating US audiences), superhero magic, some Steven Spielberg nostalgia, some trolls and a weird cat story.

The Killer – October 26

Starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton, this is the story of a professional assassin “lost in a world without a moral compass”.

Based on a French graphic novel series of the same name, it’s described as a “brutal, bloody and stylish noir story” of a cold, methodical man waiting to take out his targets without remorse.

Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) received a respectable five-minute standing ovation at the 80th Venice International Film Festival, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an 86 per cent approval rating.

Foe – November 2

Popular Irish darlings of the cinema and Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan (Little Woman) and Paul Mescal (cast in upcoming Gladiator 2) star in Foe, a haunting exploration of marriage and identity which raises questions about robots replacing humans.

Foe concerns a couple isolated in a remote farmhouse as the world engages with ecological devastation. Both get to simmer. Both get tortured speeches.

For most of its duration Foe plays out like a theatre piece,” writes an Irish Times review.

“Shot in a corner of Australia that convincingly stands in for a blasted American west … the film is saying something about the secrets all couples keep from each other.

“It will come as no surprise that we get to consider how artificial intelligence may eventually become indistinguishable from the real thing.”

The Marvels – November 9

A family fun superhero movie which brings back Brie Larson as Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel and Samuel L. Jackson.

“Unintended consequences see Carol shouldering the burden of a destabilised universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with that of Jersey City super-fan Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, and Carol’s estranged niece, now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau.

“Together, this unlikely trio must team-up and learn to work in concert to save the universe”.

Hence the title.

The Hunger Games: Ballad Of The Songbirds and Snakes – November 15

The only downside of this prequel to the Hunger Games series is that Jennifer Lawrence, who was only 20 years old when she was cast as Katniss Everdeen in the original 2013 film, does not feature.

And for good reason, it is 64 years before Katniss volunteered as tribute, and decades before Snow became the President of Panem.

Expect it to be fraught with teenage love, plenty of violence and rebellion against the powers in the Capitol over the 13 districts.

Thanksgiving – November 15

History records that the event Americans commonly call the “first Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in October 1621.

This feast lasted three days and was attended by 90 Native American Wampanoag people and 53 survivors of the Mayflower’s pilgrims.

Thanks to Hollywood movie-making, Thanksgiving is set in Plymouth, and, after a Black Friday riot ends in tragedy, a mysterious Thanksgiving-inspired killer terrorises the city.

Saltburn – November 16

Academy Award winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) brings us a beautifully wicked tale of privilege and desire.

Struggling to find his place at Oxford University, student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan, the star ofThe Banshees of Inisherin) finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer never to be forgotten.

Also starring Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan, a Guardian review says “it’s all entertaining enough, although this is a Brideshead-lite, a Brideshead nobility without the Catholicism or the pathos or the wartime regret”.

Adding, Keoghan’s Oliver, “though robust and sensual when the need arises, doesn’t quite have Tom Ripley’s vivid neediness”.

Cat Person – November 23

This is a “genre-bending thriller” about the horrors of dating in the 21st Century, adapted by Michelle Ashford (Masters of Sex, The Pacific, Operation Mincemeat) from the acclaimed New Yorker short story by Kristen Roupenian.

The official synopsis says that when Margot, a college sophomore (Emilia Jones – CODA), goes on a date with the older Robert (Nicholas Braun (Succession, Zola), she finds that, in real life, Robert doesn’t live up to the Robert she has been flirting with over texts.

The film is “a razor-sharp exploration of the gender divide, the quagmire of navigating modern dating and the dangerous projections we make in our minds about the person at the other end of our phones”.

Trolls Band Together – November 30

After two films of true friendship and relentless flirting, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) are now officially, finally, a couple (#broppy).

As they grow closer, Poppy discovers that Branch has a secret past.

A highlight will be Trainwreck‘s Amy Schumer, who narrates the villain, but you’ll have to take the kids to the cinema to see what happens.

The Old Oak – November 30

The future for the last remaining pub, The Old Oak, in a village in the north of England, where people are leaving the land as the mines are closed, is in doubt, with the publican TJ Ballantyne (Dave Turner) barely keeping the business going.

Houses are cheap and available, and his predicament is endangered even more when the pub becomes contested territory after the arrival of Syrian refugees who are placed in the village without any notice.

Bottoms – November 30

Bottoms is a 2023 American satirical teen sex comedy film with a storyline about unpopular queer high school students who start a fight club to have sex before graduation.

Surprisingly, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 92 per cent approval rating, describing it as heartwarming and hilarious.

Journey to Bethlehem – November 30

Christmas is a religious celebration for billions of Christians around the world and, every year, a film about the birth of Jesus Christ can be a joy.

Hoyts describes it as a live-action Christmas musical celebration for the entire family, weaving in classic Christmas songs into new pop tunes in a “music-infused retelling of the timeless story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus”.

“A unique new entry into the collection of holiday classic movies, this epic Christmas musical is unlike any before it.”

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