Another month down, another ranked list. I saw 16 films released in November and, for the most part, it was a great month for movies. The only major release I missed that I wanted to catch was “Wonder,” especially after hearing such solid buzz. Still, November was filled with strong awards contenders so let’s get started with the list!
16. “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” dir. Dan Gilroy
“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is a dramatic thriller set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as Roman Israel, a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action. Colin Farrell costars as the monied, cutthroat lawyer who recruits Roman to his firm.
It’s still difficult to comprehend how director Dan Gilroy followed up one of the most energetic films of the decade, “Nightcrawler,” with one of the year’s most lifeless films. Denzel Washington gives a rare dull performance in the title role, never making his character engaging in any capacity. Based off the box office results, it’s apparent that audiences have stayed away from “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” Let’s hope it stays that way.
15. “Justice League,” dir. Zack Snyder
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes – Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash – it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.
Sorry, DCEU fans. For what should have been the biggest superhero movie event since “The Avengers,” it’s inexcusable for “Justice League” to be the forgettable mess that it is. Regardless of the difficulties with the production needing to shift from one director to another and requiring massive reshoots, Warner Brothers didn’t allow their crew enough time to even complete the film so that it wouldn’t look like it would have been outdated in the 1990’s. Yes, there are moments where there’s fun to be had, but it was simply not enough.
You can read my full review for “Justice League” HERE.
14. “It Happened in L.A.,” dir. Michelle Morgan
In this classically styled comedy of manners set in Los Angeles, sophisticated thirty-somethings try to determine whether ideal happiness exists in coupledom or if the perfectly suited couple is actually just an urban myth.
While at times, there are moments of solid humor, “It Happened in L.A.” is a bit jumbled and rough around the edges. There are constant distracting story threads and character arcs that don’t smoothly integrate into one cohesive narrative. The best thing this film has going for it is the solid chemistry between all of the actors, but the final product is ultimately disposable.
13. “Murder on the Orient Express,” dir. Kenneth Branagh
A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful murder mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, “Murder on the Orient Express” tells the story of thirteen stranded strangers and one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.
Despite Kenneth Branagh’s performance as Hercule Poirot being immensely entertaining, the plot suffers due to muddled execution. The supporting cast is stacked with incredible actors who unfortunately aren’t given strong enough material to work with. There was potential for a truly great mystery but in the end, it’s not fully realized.
You can read my full review of “Murder on the Orient Express” HERE.
12. “My Friend Dahmer,” dir. Marc Meyers
A young Jeffrey Dahmer struggles to belong in high school.
Ross Lynch gives a solid lead performance and the decision to focus on the time leading up to Jeffrey Dahmer becoming a notorious serial killer, “My Friend Dahmer” is a fairly standard portrayal of a deranged young man. That being said, it’s still an intriguing enough watch that it’s worth seeing.
11. “Darkest Hour,” dir. Joe Wright
During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.
“Darkest Hour” got incredible buzz from the festival circuit, but hasn’t made a huge pop since opening in theaters last week. Gary Oldman remains to be the frontrunner for Best Actor for his transformative turn as Churchill, but the film itself is just fine.
10. “The Breadwinner,” dir. Nora Twomey
A headstrong young girl in Afghanistan disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family.
From the same company that released the stunning “Song of the Sea” a few years ago, “The Breadwinner” is a dazzling visual feast even if the narrative needed more focus. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from how families are impacted during the times of war, especially from the point of view of a child.
9. “Mudbound,” dir. Dee Rees
Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.
Packed to the brim with incredible performances from actors like Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and Mary J. Blige, director Dee Rees does a great job at portraying the difficulties of trauma and racism post-war in “Mudbound.” Admittedly, the film is a slow burn that could have been trimmed a bit, but it all culminates with a tragic, yet satisfying final act. It’s one of the tougher watches of 2017, however it’s completely rewarding.
8. “Last Flag Flying,” dir. Richard Linklater
Thirty years after they served together in Vietnam, a former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd re-unites with his old buddies, former Marines Sal Nealon and Reverend Richard Mueller, to bury his son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War.
It’s unfortunate that such a strong film from Richard Linklater was overlooked. Thanks to a strong screenplay and a terrific trio of performances, “Last Flag Flying” packs a hard emotional punch. Steve Carell in particular gives the best dramatic performance of his career, of course not topping his iconic role as Michael Scott on “The Office.”
7. “Thor: Ragnarok,” dir. Taika Waititi
Imprisoned, the almighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.
“Thor: Ragnarok” remains one of the more entertaining blockbusters of the year. Taika Waititi’s direction is frantic, adding a lot to such a wild ride in the MCU. While the high stakes should have been more impactful, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.
You can read my full review of “Thor: Ragnarok” HERE.
6. “Thelma,” dir. Joachim Trier
A woman begins to fall in love, only to discover that she has fantastic powers.
Intense, disturbing, and erotic, “Thelma” has some of the most striking imagery of the year. Eili Harboe has a commanding screen presence as a young woman on a journey of self-discovery. It’s not for everybody, but if you’re into twisted coming-of-age stories like “Raw” from earlier this year, this comes highly recommended.
5. “A Fantastic Woman,” dir. Sebastián Lelio
Marina, a waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend.
The brutal honesty of “A Fantastic Woman” is unparalleled. It’s a film that will leave you speechless, thinking long and hard about how you treat other people. Daniela Vega’s performance is fierce, raw, and heartbreaking.
4. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” dir. Martin McDonagh
After months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, Mildred Hayes makes a bold move, painting three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, the town’s revered chief of police. When his second-in-command Officer Dixon, an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
Martin McDonagh previously gave us two tremendous dark comedies with “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths.” Now with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” he has proven to be one of the more exciting writer/directors working today. The performances across the board are outstanding, Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell in particular, and the script is hilarious without ever sacrificing the hardhitting emotion.
You can read my full review of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” HERE.
3. “Coco,” dir. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
Pixar has always had a reputation of using the medium of animation to tell grand, yet personal stories and “Coco” is no different. Not only is this film one of the most vibrant things you’ll see all year, but it’s an emotional powerhouse. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina were no afraid to show the hardships of following your dreams and losing loved ones while at the same time crafting a story that is accessible to any age group. It’s an absolute triumph.
You can read my full review of “Coco” HERE.
2. “Call Me By Your Name,” dir. Luca Guadagnino
In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.
Every time I see this movie, the more I fall in love with it. Timothée Chalamet is a revelation, giving the best performance of any actor this year, Luca Guadagnino’s direction is beautiful, and the development of this romance is nuanced and true. “Call Me By Your Name” is the kind of movie you rarely see. It will simply blow you away.
You can read my full review of “Call Me By Your Name” HERE.
1. “Lady Bird,” dir. Greta Gerwig
In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.
No other movie in 2017 warms the soul as much as “Lady Bird.” The sincerity that Greta Gerwig injects into the high school experience rings so honest, providing a unique humanity to a coming-of-age story that could have so easily felt familiar and cliche. Saoirse Ronan is an absolute delight, captivating to watch in every moment. It’s quite simply impossible to not feel good while watching “Lady Bird.”
So there it is, my ranking of the films of November 2017! What films stood out for you this month? Which one hit closest to home for you? Let me know down below in the comments section.
This month, we have easily the most anticipated film of 2017, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi!” In addition to that, more films from the festival circuit such as “The Shape of Water” (which I reviewed HERE!), “The Disaster Artist,” and “Downsizing” hit theaters as well as Oscar hopefuls, “The Post” and “Phantom Thread.” Expect some reviews for some of those films throughout the entire month!
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Thanks for reading!