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This November is a diverse month. Come Thanksgiving, there are all kinds of pictures to experience with your family: a boy preparing for war; a time travel romantic comedy; James Franco antagonizing Jason Statham; and Josh Brolin bashing a few skulls in with a hammer. If only every month had that level of variety, because this November has it in spades.

One glaring omission from this list is Thor: The Dark World. I predict James Franco’s performance in Homefront alone will make that Sylvester Stallone-written actioner more of a must-see than Marvel’s biggest clunker to date.

Despite Thor: The Dark World, there are still plenty other options to go with. Here they are:

Man of Tai Chi

Now in limited release and available on VOD/iTunes.

Keanu Reeves isn’t only a tip-top actor, but apparently a pretty damn fine director too. His directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, is an efficient ride with terrific fights and a bonkers performance from Reeves. The star chomps up all of the film’s easy on the eyes scenery, with dynamic one-liners and interesting acting choices. Everything about Reeves and the welcomingly simple narrative — an honest and naive young man thrusted into the world of dirty underground fighting — is both self-aware and a ton of fun.

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Dallas Buyers Club 

Now in theaters.

As of right now, Matthew McConaughey cannot be stopped. With Dallas Buyers ClubMudMagic Mike, and, the best of the bunch, Killer Joe, McConaughey’s been doing career best work lately. Dallas Buyers Club may not be no Mud or Reign of Fire, but it’s a well-rounded drama. This true story follows a flawed but not too flawed cowboy (McConaughey) diagnosed with HIV, and despite that potentially reductive description, it’s more fun and engaging than it sounds.

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Ender’s Game

Now in theaters.

This is a shockingly good adaptation of the crazy Orson Scott Card‘s excellent novel. Scott’s story takes many chances that we rarely see in a tentpole release, and writer/director Gavin Hood doesn’t shy away from the novel’s lofty ambitions or cold protagonist, Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield), a kid taken from home to one day lead a strike against an alien force. Not everything translates from the book smoothly, but what does is an often thrilling piece of spectacle.

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Mr. Nobody

Now in limited release and available on VOD/iTunes.

Jared Leto must be having a nice weekend. Dallas Buyers Club is popular with critics and he’s already seen his share of oscar talk. He’ll likely be nominated for that film, but not only should he be pleased by that prospect, but also the fact that Mr. Nobody is finally seeing a US release after being completed over four years ago. Jaco Van Dormael‘s trippy picture is part science-fiction, drama, and comedy. All those genres don’t add up to a movie for everyone, but it’s a beautifully realized film all about the importance of choice.

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About Time

Now in limited release.

Now here is a high-concept that isn’t at all challenging, but instead comforting and sweet. The time travel pic about appreciating all your days is a nice swan song for Richard Curtis (Love Actually), who’s retiring after only directing three movies. The father-son relationship may be more satisfying than the love story, featuring Rachel McAdams, but About Time is a nice movie that’ll leave a big lump in your throat at the end.

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Nebraska

Opens in theaters November 15th.

Another great film from Alexander Payne? What a surprise….Nebraska is Payne’s most reserved film to date, so it works in surprisingly small and profound ways. There are no “big” scenes, per se. This tale of an old drunk, played by Bruce Dern, who’s convinced he’s won a million dollars avoids the cliches you’d expect from this father-son story. Nebraska is funny, observant, honest, and has the perfect ending.

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Anton Corbijn Inside Out

Available on VOD November 19th.

If you don’t know Anton Corbijn by name, then you’ve surely seen his work. Corbijn is responsible for some of your favorite music videos, having worked with Nirvana, Henry Rollins, U2, Metallica, and so on. He’s not only a respected photographer and video director, but a man behind two great films: The American and Control. Thus far Corbijn’s filmography have dealt with isolated figures, and this promising documentary on Corbijn paints a portrait that sounds awfully similar to his lonely protagonists.

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Opens in theaters November 22nd.

The Hunger Games was a terrific start to this franchise. Director Gary Ross‘s film was embraced by fans and, like myself, non-fans, even with those CG dogs at the end. Ross isn’t behind this Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) adventure, but a director as reliable is: Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend). Lawrence’s eye and thematic interests are suited for this series. This is only Lawrence’s fourth film, but he’s already proven himself capable of telling character-driven stories on a large scale.

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The Poor & Hungry 

Available on home video and streaming November 22nd.

The Poor & Hungry led to Craig Brewer getting Hustle and Flow made, and it’s easy to see why. The movie has that specific kind of energy we see in Brewer’s other films. This story about the truly poor and hungry — a low-rent criminal, a street hustler, and a girl with a sick father — has the sweaty and desperate atmosphere we saw in Blacksnake Moan and Hustle and Flow. The black and white “digiflick” has plenty of personality, laughs, and and a dark edge. It’s not only a good start for Brewer, but a pretty good movie.

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Philomena 

Opens in theaters November 22nd.

The combination of Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Frears, and Steve Coogan make Philomena an all around promising heartwarmer. If those three names don’t seal the deal, then you must know Judi Dench makes a Big Momma’s House joke. That reference may be 10 years late, but it’s Judi Dench, so we can excuse the tardiness. The trailer sure did spoil plenty about this story of an elderly woman trying to find her son, with the help of journalist played by Coogan, but the under-the-radar drama looks like a guaranteed tearjerker.

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Honorable Mentions: Frozen, Homefront (for Franco), OldboyHow I Live, and Frozen

What do you plan to see in the month of November?


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