The Film Fix: Previewing November’s Top Films in Theaters, Streaming

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By JONATHAN W. HICKMAN, Special to The Paper

Below are reviews and capsules of various films this month in theaters and/or streaming.

Review rating … A “Fix” is recommended with a rating between 6 and 10. A “No Fix” is not recommended with a rating between 1 to 5.

In Theaters

Priscilla (in theaters now) – No Fix Rating 5/10 Last year, we got “Elvis,” Baz Luhrmann’s highly stylized fantasy about Elvis Presley. That film, which was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, cast Elvis as the victim of his manipulative manager, the weirdly mysterious Colonel Tom Parker. With “Priscilla,” director Sofia Coppola flips the script and focuses on Elvis’ creepy relationship with his teenage wife, Priscilla.  

Although an effort is made to explain the love affair between Priscilla (played by Cailee Spaeny) and Elvis, it is impossible not to come away from the film feeling that Elvis victimized his bride. After all, Priscilla was just 14 years old when the much older musician began dating her.

Coppola, the talented daughter of iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, plays the story too safe. The script is based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me.”  And Priscilla serves as one of the film’s producers. This connection to the production may have tied Coppola’s hands and restrained her from digging deeper into the unpleasant aspects of Elvis and his treatment of his wife.

The result is a sad, often meandering, and even lifeless movie that drives home Priscilla’s isolation at the expense of profound revelations and raw entertainment value.  

Streaming Selects

PARAMOUNT+

Lawmen: Bass Reeves (November 5) Although “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan is not a writer on this Paramount western, he does serve as an executive producer. Based on the true story of the first African American to serve as a deputy US Marshall, mega-talented actor David Oyelowo (see 2014’s “Selma”) takes the lead playing lawman Bass Reeves. The deep cast includes Dennis Quaid, Barry Pepper, Shea Whigham, and Donald Sutherland.

PEACOCK

Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain (November 17) The comedy team behind some of Saturday Night Live’s classic digital shorts brings their comic sensibilities to the big screen with “The Treasure of Foggy Mountain.” The story is about three friends who try to change their lives by finding a gold treasure allegedly buried in a mountain near where they live. The trailers are quirky and really funny. 

MAX (formerly HBO Max)

How to be a Bookie (season premiere November 30) After falling flat earlier this year with his romantic comedy “About My Father,” popular comedian Sebastian Maniscalco looks to rebound with this Chuck Lorre (see “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men”) created series. The story is about a bookie who is dealing with the upcoming legalization of sports betting. Even though this series is supposedly being released in November, no trailer or even a poster was available online as of deadline.

NETFLIX

The Killer (November 10) – Fix Rating 7/10 Director David Fincher (see “Se7en” and “Fight Club”) delivers a slick, efficient, and amusing yarn about a contract killer (played with quiet cool by Michael Fassbender). 

When the killer botches a job, he becomes expendable to his organization. Naturally, he must take out all those who seek to erase him. The derivative story, based on a French graphic novel, is given the royal treatment as Fincher’s “Mank” Oscar-winning cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt provides the production an edgy look. 

But in the director’s filmography, “The Killer” is minor Fincher. The directing auteur, responsible for the likes of “The Social Network,” takes a break from his heavy and dramatically essential projects (like his last Netflix outing, “Mank”) to deliver an entertaining adventure that’s just smart enough to pull in the arthouse crowd. This one may not win many awards, but it should be a hit with Netflix subscribers looking for an upmarket thriller.

AMAZON PRIME 

Invincible (season 2, part 1, November 3) More than two years have passed since the last episode of “Invincible,” and fans have been champing at the bit for more of the story of teen Mark Grayson (voice of Steven Yeun), as he deals with high school and his superhero father Nolan (voice of J.K. Simmons). Mark’s powers emerged in season one, and he clashed with dear old Dad and other villains in this terrific animated series. The first half of season 2 will premiere this year, with the second half in 2024.

DISNEY PLUS 

The Santa Clauses (season 2, November 8) Tim Allen returns to play the title character he inhabited way back in 1994. In season two, Santa will encounter a new threat in the form of Magnus Antas, or “The Mad Santa,” played by “Modern Family’s” Eric Stonestreet. And “Lost” star Elizabeth Mitchell returns as Mrs. Claus.

APPLE TV+

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (November 17) 7/10 There’s always more to a monster story than we’re told. Sometimes lost in the kaiju tales is the human factor that was explored somewhat in the 1956 original “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” 

When “Godzilla” was rebooted in the English language in 2014, the emotional opening sequence hinted at a return to the high drama that saturated the first film in the franchise. And this series takes its time developing the story on the ground after the monsters emerge and wreak havoc. The diverse cast of actors includes Kurt Russell and his son Wyatt, who play the same character in two time periods. 

This show is a bit of a slow burn, but it’s certainly worth your time, especially if you grew up with Godzilla and enjoyed the latest incarnation of the intellectual property. 

Theatrical Teasers

Showdown at the Grand (November 10) Terrence Howard plays a movie theater owner who, with the help of an aging action star played by Dolph Lundgren, defends his property from a violent corporation in this fun-looking, throwback b-movie thriller. 

The Marvels (November 10) Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan join forces in the latest MCU adventure that has the three heroes’ powers entangled while they struggle to work together to, you guessed it, save the universe. 

The Holdovers (November 10) Director Alexander Payne (see “Election” and “Nebraska”) reteams with his “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti for the story of a history teacher who spends the holidays on campus with a troubled student. After its festival run, “The Holdovers” is garnering awards season attention, especially for the always terrific Giamatti.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (November 17) This prequel to the blockbuster “Hunger Games” franchise focuses on the origin story of Coriolanus Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the previous films). Young talents Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth star alongside Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage.

Thanksgiving (November 17) Director Eli Roth expands to feature length the mock-trailer that appeared in the “Grindhouse” film in 2007. This grizzly-looking but comic holiday-themed slasher tells the story of a killer who appears after a Black Friday riot.

Wish (November 22) Disney delivers a new animated adventure about a young girl named Asha (voiced by Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose) who makes a wish upon a star, and then the star comes down and visits her. The voice cast is deep with Evan Peters, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk, Harvey Guillén, and others.

Napoleon (November 22) Ridley Scott directs Joaquin Phoenix in this epic biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. This one looks sumptuous and is bound to generate awards notice.

Maestro (November 22) Another awards contender gets its qualifying run with Netflix’s Oscar hopeful “Maestro.” Bradley Cooper directs and stars as famed conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein. Much attention has centered on Carey Mulligan’s turn as Bernstein’s wife, Felicia. The moving trailers tease the film’s classic 1.33:1 or 4:3 aspect ratio and part of it in black and white. Cooper, who has never won the Oscar despite being nominated for nine statues, looks to be in line for another round of nominations with this one.

Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, filmmaker, college professor, and novelist. More about Jonathan can be found by visiting: filmproductionlaw.com. Folks can also follow him at dailyfilmfix.com.

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