Top 10 of 2014


Top 10 of 2014For most of the year, I asserted that this was kind of a down year for movies in terms of quality and to a lesser degree, of box office as well. Although there have been some really good movies that would be contenders for the best movie of the year in any year, I still think that overall there were fewer movies that had the slam dunk quality overall of years past.

Still, the movies on this top 10 list were all of very high quality and you won’t go wrong in watching any of them. I was pleased to see that there were a number of indie movies that really stepped up the game; in fact, I think it’s a safe bet to call this the Year of the Indie. While some of these are indies in name only, distributed by major studios who have developed distribution arm for foreign films and smaller scale American films produced outside of the studios (i.e. Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics and Paramount Vantage), plenty are true indies with no financing or distribution from a major.

We continue to see a migration of traditional distribution in which movies received a theatrical release, followed about six months later by a home video release and ending up with a premium cable release about a year after the initial theatrical release. That is no longer the case as people are more and more watching films at home rather than in theaters. Some of the major indie distributors like Magnolia and IFC are releasing their films in On-Demand format concurrently with their theatrical release (and often ahead of it) which makes good fiscal sense for them. Mid-majors like Weinstein and Lionsgate have begun to follow suit. Universal even decided to release the acclaimed Joe Carnahan film Stretch into on-demand without a theatrical release which is a bit disturbing but sensible as well. We might see marginal studio films going that route more often in the future.

As with previous years, you can learn more about each movie on the top 10 list by clicking on the title to access my initial review, or clicking on the photo of the movie to go to the movie’s website or Facebook page when available. The information given should be self-explanatory. This year we’re also adding the top 10 films’ Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores as of the date I write the blurbs.

As always, the list is entirely arbitrary. How I rank these movies today isn’t necessarily how I would rank them tomorrow. I am also ignoring half-points from the initial ratings so you might see a 9.0 ranked ahead of a 9.5. It’s my list. Deal with it. In any case, at the end of the day the order the films are ranked in is unimportant save for the number one movie of the year. The thing to remember is that all of these films including the honorable mention films are all of the highest quality and you can’t go wrong seeing any of them. Hopefully this list will suggest a few to you that you might have missed during the year or didn’t get distribution in your home town. Many of them will be already out on home video or VOD, while a few may still be in your local theaters. Do yourself a favor and try and see as many of these as you can. You won’t regret it.

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So, in no particular order;

The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Wind Rises, The Babadook, Before I Disappear, Ida, The Trip to Italy, Doomsdays, Tim’s Vermeer, Copenhagen, Chef, Bad Words, The Final Member, The Zero Theorem, The Devil’s Knot, The Railway Man, Cold in July, Blue Ruin, The Fluffy Movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Interstellar, The Boxtrolls, The Good Lie, Birdman, Foxchaser, Wild, Slingshot, Ernest and Celestine, The Lunchbox, Jodorowsky’s Dune, The LEGO Movie, Locke, Force Majeure, Life Itself.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier10. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Toby Jones, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Released April 3, 2014 Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America fresh from saving New York City from an alien invasion is an integral part of SHIELD, protecting the world and particularly the United States, from threats too powerful for local law enforcement to handle. But something is attacking SHIELD from within and Rogers, who knows nobody from this era after having been frozen in the Arctic for nearly half a century, doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe. He’s a black and white kind of guy in a shades of grey world.
WHY IT IS HERE: Hearkens back to the political thrillers of the 1970s coupled with a modern special effects-laden action film. Was the box office champion for much of 2014 until a Marvel mate came to take the crown from Cap. But more importantly, people began to see that Marvel movies could be a lot more than superhero films.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Cap takes out an elevator full of would-be assassins.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 89% positive reviews. Metacritic: 70/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $259.8 million domestic, $714.1M total (as of 1/13/15).
BUDGET: $170 million
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Vudu/Amazon. Stream on Vudu/iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray on Netflix.

Whiplash9. WHIPLASH

(Sony Classics) Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, Suanne Spoke, Max Kasch, Charlie Ian, Jayson Blair, Kofi Siriboe, Kavita Patil. Directed by Damien Chazelle

Released October 10, 2014 A driven young jazz drummer attending a prestigious music conservatory in New York City yearns to be the best, and in order to do that will have to make sacrifices. Taken under the wing of a stern taskmaster of an instructor, the two strong wills meet head on as Chazelle asks us to consider at what point the price of greatness becomes too dear.
WHY IT IS HERE: Newcomer Chazelle has delivered a taut, engaging movie in which two performances take front and center. Teller proves that he can be a compelling lead actor, while veteran character actor Simmons delivers the performance of his career for which he has already won a Golden Globe and is the odds-on favorite for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar next month.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Andrew’s drum solo in a situation in which he had been set up to fail, yet ends up triumphing despite the adversity.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 95% positive reviews. Metacritic: 88/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $6.2 million domestic, $7.1M total (as of 1/13/15),.
BUDGET: $3.3 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on February 24. Digital download pre-order available on Vudu.

Gone Girl8. GONE GIRL

(20th Century Fox) Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, David Clennon, Lisa Barnes, Missi Pyle, Emily Ratajkowski, Casey Wilson, Lola Kirke, Boyd Holbrook, Sela Ward. Directed by David Fincher

Released October 2, 2014 When his wife disappears, Nick Dunne fears the worst – maybe she’s been kidnapped or possibly, given the blood at the scene of the crime – murdered. But when signs point to Nick being the killer, suddenly the sympathy he’d been receiving turns to something else. Almost nobody believes him. However, even Nick doesn’t suspect what’s going on and who’s behind it.
WHY IT IS HERE: One of the big box office hits of 2014 took a lot of people by surprise. Fox did a masterful job of marketing the film without revealing its twists and turns. Fincher directs it masterfully, making sure that everything that happens onscreen has a reason for it. Pike got a Golden Globe nomination for her star-making performance and may well net an Oscar nom as well.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: I can’t reveal too much about the scene without spoiling the surprises but let’s just call it “NPH gets lucky…or does he?”
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 89% positive reviews. Metacritic: 79/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $167.2 million domestic (as of 1/14/15), $365.4M total.
BUDGET: $61 million
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Vudu/Target Ticket. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Vudu/iTunes/Target Ticket.

The Imitation Game7. THE IMITATION GAME

(Weinstein) Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Alan Leech, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Mark Strong, James Northcote, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Waddington, Ilan Goodman, Jack Tarlton. Directed by Morten Tyldum

Released November 28, 2014 The story of Alan Turing wasn’t a particularly happy one. A brilliant mathematician with a lifelong passion for cyphers, he was enlisted by the British Army during the Second World War to crack what was then thought to be an unbreakable code – Enigma. The Germans used it for all their communication and the Allies were losing the war largely because of it. The socially awkward Alan has a secret of his own – and that secret might just lose the war for the Allies altogether.
WHY IT IS HERE: Well-acted throughout, with an Oscar-worthy performance by Cumberbatch in the lead role, with Knightley giving some fine support. The movie is told as something of a wartime thriller, but it’s so much more. The agonizing decisions that Turing had to make in order to make his machine work and then on keeping their progress hidden from the Germans is truly heart-wrenching.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: An a-ha moment that leads to a breakthrough.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $41.0 million domestic (as of 1/14/15), $81.9M total..
BUDGET: $14 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Mission Congo6. MISSION CONGO

(C-Colony) Pat Robertson, Robert Hinkle, Jessie Pott. Directed by David Turner and Laura Zizic

Released April 5, 2014 A compelling documentary that looks at televangelist Pat Robertson and his humanitarian aid program Operation Blessing. Ostensibly sending medical supplies and personnel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire) to help aid the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Rwanda which was then in the throes of a civil war and genocide, the filmmakers contend that Robertson’s prime focus was mining diamonds and not saving lives.
WHY IT IS HERE: While decidedly one-sided (Robertson was invited to be interviewed but declined – he’s steadfastly denied the charges) the evidence is presented in an organized and thoughtful manner. Using tax returns, archival footage and eyewitness accounts, the filmmakers put together a pretty damning case against the preacher.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The footage showing the real places supposedly helped by Operation Blessing and how the reality differs greatly from how Operation Blessing portrays things.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: No information available.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Not available. May still be playing the festival circuit.

The Kill Team5. THE KILL TEAM

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Adam Winfield, Jeremy Morlock, Justin Stoner, Andrew Holmes, Chris Winfield, Emma Winfield, Eric Montalvo. Directed by Dan Krauss

Released April 6, 2014 Some may remember a few years back a squadron of soldiers that was brought up on charges of unjustifiably murdering Afghan civilians and keeping human remains as souvenirs of their misdeeds. This is a documentary about the men in that squadron, how they were hung out to dry by the Army who denied the atrocities that they were later to have proven that they committed had actually happened.
WHY IT IS HERE: A very gripping look at one of the less savory incidents of the war. We focus mainly on Winfield, who tried to blow the whistle on what was happening but instead ended up in prison. This illustrates how officers are treated differently than enlisted men, how CYA is a military code in and of itself and how innocents get caught in the middle. The very best documentary of 2014, a year in which great documentaries were the norm and a Florida Film Festival favorite.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The aftermath of the sentencing of Adam Winfield.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 72/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $18,983 domestic (as of 1/16/14), $18,983 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Vudu/Amazon. Rent DVD from Netflix. Stream from iTunes/Vudu/Amazon.

Guardians of the Galaxy4, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Bradley Cooper (voice), Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Rooker, Benicio del Toro, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin. Directed by James Gunn

Released August 1, 2014 A group of misfits, criminals and genetic mistakes are all that stands between the universe and a power-mad fanatic who has hold of one of the most powerful artifacts in reality. Led by the displaced human Peter Quill – who prefers to be called Star Lord – the beautiful and deadly assassin Gamora, the sentient tree Groot, the genetically enhanced Rocket Raccoon and the vengeful strong man Drax the Destroyer, these five will stand against Ronan the Accuser and the machinations of the evil Thanos – and the Infinity Gem.
WHY IT IS HERE: Spectacle, action, comedy, pathos – this film has it all. The box office champion of 2014 (although that will have likely changed by the time this is published, or at least shortly thereafter), this proves that Marvel can take some of their most obscure properties and make huge box office hits out of them. Some have said this will end up being the Star Wars for this generation. Okay, well, that was me that said it. In any case, Da Queen would kill me if this didn’t at least make my Top 5.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: One of the Guardians mourns a fallen comrade.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 91% positive reviews. Metacritic: 76/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $333.2 million domestic (as of 1/20/15), $772.8 million total.
BUDGET: $170 million.
STATUS: Available on home video. Download from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket.

Her3, HER

(Warner Brothers) Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Kristen Wiig (voice), Bill Hader (voice). Directed by Spike Jonze

Released January 10, 2014 In the near future, we rely on computers more than ever and it takes a powerful operating system to keep up with demand. When a new OS with the capacity for learning debuts, it hits some people like a ton of bricks. For Theodore Twombly is in love – with his operating system.
WHY IT IS HERE: Although it came out for an Oscar qualifying run in December 2013, most of the country didn’t get to see it until January. Shaply funny in places with a wit and an eye for our modern social media obsessed culture. This would have ended up on last year’s even harder to crack top 10 if we’d had the opportunity to see it in December.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Theo and Samantha have a steamy bedtime conversation.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 94% positive reviews. Metacritic: 90/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $25.6 million domestic (as of 1/20/15), $47.4 million total.
BUDGET: $23 million.
STATUS: Available on home video and on HBO. Download from Amazon/iTunes/Flixster/Vudu. Stream from iTunes. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix.

The Double2. THE DOUBLE

(Magnolia) Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor, James Fox, Cathy Moriarty, J. Mascis. Directed by Richard Ayoade

Released May 9, 2014 Simon is a mousy but hard-working office drone has an existence of invisibility; people forget that he’s worked there for seven years and the girl of his dreams won’t even give him a second glance. All that changes when James starts working in the office. James is everything that  Simon is not – self-confident, charismatic and irresistible to women. However, James is also everything that Simon is – an exact physical double. And, to Simon’s despair, he is taking over Simon’s life.
WHY IT IS HERE: Yeah, I know that the retro-futurist look is nothing new but few movies take advantage of it as well as this one, and none since Brazil in an office environment. Eisenberg delivers the kind of performance that serves notice that he’s not a nebbish-y kid anymore. This was the best narrative film from this year’s Florida Film Festival and my favorite overall.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Some cops talk to Simon about the chances he’ll commit suicide.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $200,406 (as of 1/21/15), $1.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Available on home video. Download on Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket. Stream on Netflix/Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Target Ticket. Rent Blu-Ray/DVD on Netflix.

Boyhood1. BOYHOOD

(IFC) Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Steven Prince, Bonnie Cross, Marco Perella, Libby Villari. Directed by Richard Linklater

Released July 11, 2014 We capture the life of a young boy growing into a young man over a 12-year period. Young Mason, his single mom, his sister Samantha and his dad cope with the vagaries of being a divorced family, through abusive stepdads, periods of acting out, attempts to find himself as he goes through high school and prepares for college. Filmed over a period of 12 years with the same cast and much of the same crew makes the aging process natural and believable.
WHY IT IS HERE: If Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were still alive, I believe they’d both likely vote this the film of the decade or at least one of them. This is the ultimate slice of life film and Linklater deserves all the accolades he’s received for this movie. There are no mysteries, no explosions, no contrived romances – but nonetheless this movie pulls you in and affects you deeply, thanks to some wonderful performances and Coltrane’s natural abilities. Sometimes the universe lines up in such a way that everything works the way you hope it would – this is one such instance.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: There are several but there’s a conversation between Mason and his dad at a graduation party which is priceless.
CRITICAL MASS: Rotten Tomatoes: 98% positive reviews. Metacritic: 100/100.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $24.6 million domestic (as of 1/21/15), $43.8M total.
BUDGET: $4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Flixster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Vudu/Flixster.

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The Double (2013)


Jesse Eisenberg can't stand to look.

Jesse Eisenberg can’t stand to look.

(2013) Thriller (Magnolia) Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins, Cathy Moriarty, Chris O’Dowd, Gemma Chan, Paddy Considine, James Fox, Rade Serbedzija, Yasmin Paige, Craig Roberts, Nathalie Cox, Christopher Morris, Tony Rohr, Susan Blommaert, Phyllis Somerville, J Mascis, Natalia Warner, Joanna Finata. Directed by Richard Ayoade

Florida Film Festival 2014

When we look into the mirror, we generally have a good idea at what we’re looking at. What if the face staring back at us, however, wasn’t necessarily our own?

Simon James (Eisenberg) is a cubicle drone for one of those big conglomerates whose purpose really isn’t necessarily apparent. It is run by a mythic figure known only as the Colonel (Fox) who rarely makes appearances but is deeply appreciated and loved by his workers. Simon’s immediate boss, Mr. Papadopoulos (Shawn) can barely remember Simon’s name. In fact, he can’t.

In fact, nobody can. When Simon comes into work one day on the train, his briefcase carrying his ID and pretty much his entire life gets stuck in the doors of the train and is whisked away. The security guard at the front gate doesn’t recognize Simon and isn’t disposed to letting him in at first. Only Harris (Taylor) seems to have any idea that Simon actually works for.

Worse still, Simon pines away for Hannah (Wasikowska) who works the gigantic room-sized copier machine for the company. Too shy to actually ask her out, she is kind enough to him but again doesn’t seem to know that he is anything other than an occasional nuisance, asking for a single copy of a document when, as Hannah’s co-worker points out, the copy department is meant to make thousands of copies of large documents.

However, even this somewhat desperate life is threatened when a new employee arrives: James Simon is his name and he looks like an exact doppelganger of Simon. James is everything Simon is not – cool, confident, instantly memorable, manipulative and without conscience. A mirror image, if you will; reflecting the same person but in reverse. Simon is the only one who notices that James looks exactly like him.

James begins romancing Melanie (Paige), the boss’s daughter whom Simon had been attempting to train (although she is remarkably uninterested in learning anything). While James attempts to help Simon capture the woman of his dreams, it is James that Hannah falls for. It is also James who gets recognized for Simon’s accomplishment. Simon isn’t just fading into obscurity; his life is being usurped.

This played the Florida Film Festival earlier this year and was my favorite film to come out of it. It is based on a short story by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the conceit of which wasn’t especially new even in Dostoevsky’s day. Still, it works as a modern parable of how our personality is more or less a reflection of how others see it – and when others don’t, we begin to fade into oblivion.

Ayoade, a British comedian who has appeared in such films as The Watch also directed Submarine, much of whose cast appears here in various roles and cameos. Like this film, his directing debut also had the subtext of the disconnect between who we are and who we think we are. Here he adopts a kind of retro-futuristic look that resembles the world of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil set in a kind of postwar Soviet environment with recognizable modern technology in large, boxy and hideously inconvenient to use incarnations; personal computers have tiny screens on large grey shells that take up the entire wall of a cubicle, for example. Everything is grimy and dingy, like nobody has bothered to dust for decades. Even the diner that Simon patronizes looks distinctly unappealing, and you just know that any food served by the frowzy waitress Kiki (Moriarty) is going to be tasteless, bland and will probably give you the runs.

Eisenberg is one of those actors who can be dreadfully annoying with his nervous tics and stammering, the love child between Woody Allen and Hugh Grant, but when given the right kind of role, can hammer it out of the park. He seems to excel when given characters who aren’t entirely likable; the less likable, the better – Michael Cera has much the same issue in his career. This is one of Eisenberg’s best performances to date, one in which he plays both the nebbish and the morally bankrupt hipster. Both are personas that he has done before.

The movie is darkly funny with a weird sense of humor that once in awhile comes at you from oblique angles and causes you to laugh not just because the situation is funny but because you didn’t expect it even for a moment. In fact, you are never quite sure where the movie is going, but are content and even eager to let it get you there. That’s the kind of movie that most stimulates me not only as a critic but as a moviegoer.

This isn’t likely to get a good deal of exposure. It’s certainly not a movie that’s for everyone. It is very bleak in places which you would expect from a film based on something written by a Russian writer. However, that bleakness is offset by the cheerfully warped humor and Eisenberg’s dual performance. Mainstream audiences will probably want to give this a pass but if you love movies as much as I do, it is one that you should put on your must-see list.

REASONS TO GO: Wonderful set design and atmosphere. Eisenberg at his neurotic best.  Weird sense of humor.

REASONS TO STAY: A little twitchy in places. Not for everybody.

FAMILY VALUES:  Enough foul language to garner an “R” rating.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although there are several other films with the same title, this is the first to be based on the Dostoevsky short story that bears its name (the Stanley Kubrick film The Partner is also loosely based on the novella).

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/25/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: Metacritic: 68/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Brazil

FINAL RATING: 10/10

NEXT: Winter in the Blood

New Releases for the Week of May 23, 2014


X-Men: Days of Future PastX-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

(20th Century Fox) Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage, Nicholas Hoult. Directed by Bryan Singer

The original X-Men, living in a future devastated by mutant-hunting Sentinels who have begun hunting all life down, must send Wolverine back into the past to fight alongside their younger selves and convince a young and bitter Professor X to bring the X-Men together. He, however, is not so willing no matter what the cost. Singer returns to the franchise he originated.

See the trailer, promos, clips, interviews and B-Roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Superhero

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language)

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn

(Lionsgate) Robin Williams, Mila Kunis, James Earl Jones, Melissa Leo. A Brooklyn man, notorious for his ill temperament, goes to see a doctor about a raging headache. When she tells him that he has a brain aneurysm, he demands to know how long he has. He finally bullies her into telling him – 90 minutes. He sets out to make amends with those he has wronged in his life in the short time he has left. She, filled with remorse, sets out to find him and bring him to the hospital before the angriest man in Brooklyn becomes the angriest corpse in Brooklyn.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for language throughout and some sexual content)

Belle

(Fox Searchlight) Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson. Dido Elizabeth Belle was the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a British Royal Navy Admiral in the 19th century. Raised by her aristocratic great-Uncle, she exists in a strange half-life of the privileged class but due to the color of her skin unable to participate fully or take advantage completely of her circumstances. Her passion, dignity and spirit inspire her great-Uncle to be one of the catalyzing forces in ending slavery in England.

See the trailer, interviews, clips and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Historical Drama

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, some language and brief smoking images)

Blended

(Warner Brothers) Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Kevin Nealon, Joel McHale. Two single parents are set up on a blind date by his boss and her roommate who are dating. Date ends in disaster. Boss and roommate break up. African safari that they were going to go on is up for grabs. Single parents grab the spots. Single parents take their kids. Single parents hate each other. Laughs (hopefully) ensue.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-Roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for crude and suggestive content, and language)

Chef

(Open Road) Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman. Frustrated at having his culinary inspiration curtailed by a control freak owner, a classically-trained chef quits the fine dining establishment in a move viewed by some of his friends as career suicide. Without prospects, he sinks everything he has into buying a food truck. Taking along his ex-wife and best friend for the ride, he takes to this new trend in great food and re-discovers his passion not just for cooking but for life.

See the trailer, clips and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for language, including some suggestive references)

The Double

(Magnolia) Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Noah Taylor. A drone in a retro-futuristic industrial setting, Simon James is a mousy sort who pines away for a co-worker but does nothing to pursue her. A hard worker, his accomplishments are overlooked and indeed few even know his name. Then one day, the company hires a new worker – James Simon, who looks exactly like Simon. To his horror, the outgoing and charismatic James begins to take over Simon’s life; even the girl of his dreams falls for the man who looks exactly like him. One of my films from this year’s Florida Film Festival, look for my review this Sunday.

See the trailer, a clip and find a link to rent the full movie for streaming here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Fantasy

Rating: R (for language)

Fed Up

(Radius) Michele Simon. Rocco diSpirito, Senator Cory Booker, Jamie Oliver. The epidemic of childhood obesity and adult-onset diabetes has led nutritionists and medical professionals to rethink our concepts of diet and exercise. The food industry with its emphasis on prepared foods, salt, sugar and fats make it nearly impossible for us to eat responsibly. This documentary will open your eyes as to the way you eat and the things you take for granted.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website .

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: PG (for thematic elements including smoking images, and brief mild language)

The Immigrant

(Weinstein) Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Angela Sarafyan. At the turn of the 20th century a Polish woman is emigrating to the United States with her sister. When they are separated, she falls prey to a charming but wicked man who forces her into prostitution. Her only salvation may come at the hands of an enigmatic stage magician – who happens to be her tormentor’s cousin.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Mystery

Rating: R (for sexual content, some nudity and language)

The Love Punch

(Ketchup) Pierce Brosnan, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie. Richard and Kate are happily divorced and looking to go into their sunset years blessedly apart from each other. When an unscrupulous businessman screws them out of their pension, the two are forced to team up and get back what they worked their whole lives for.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Caper Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content, language and rude humor)

Manam

(CineGalaxy)  Akkineni Nageshwara Rao, Nagajurna Akkineni, Naga Chaitanya, Samantha Ruth Prabhu.Two souls encounter each other again and again during a hundred year period. Inspired (very) loosely by Back to the Future. This would be Rao’s final film; the veteran Bollywood star passed away shortly after filming wrapped.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: May 2014


X-Men: Days of Future PastEvery month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (1.0)
2. GODZILLA (1.1)
3. A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (1.2)
TIE. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (1.2)
TIE.  MALEFICENT (1.2)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE DOUBLE (1.0)
2. THE IMMIGRANT (1.2)
3. DEVIL’S KNOT (1.3)
4. BLOOD GLACIER (1.4)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

MAY 2, 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (Columbia) Genre: Superhero. Spidey discovers that the villainous Oscorp is developing technology for evil purposes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 I’ve been a big fan of director Marc Webb ever since (500) Days of Summer.
THE BACHELOR WEEKEND (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. The bachelor party slash camping trip of a foppish groom-to-be turns ugly when his alpha male brother-in-law to be turns up. Release Strategy: Chicago only. RATING: 2.8 Stag party humor with an incomprehensible British accent.
BAD JOHNSON (Gravitas Ventures) Genre: Comedy. A philandering man unable to maintain a lasting relationship wakes up one morning to discover his penis has taken human form. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Cam Gigandet and penis humor at its finest.
BELLE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Life Drama. A young woman of illegitimate mixed race parentage grows up to influence the repeal of slavery in Great Britain. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Merchant-Ivory version of 12 Years a Slave.
BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY (Tribeca) Genre: Thriller. Two young friends yearn to buy a car and get out of their sleepy Maine town but one’s drug smuggling father may throw their plans into turmoil. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.4 The trailer doesn’t look as compelling as I thought it might.
BLOOD GLACIER (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A strange fluid from a melting glacier causes the wildlife to mutate in strange and terrifying ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks like incredible fun.
DECODING ANNIE PARKER (eOne) Genre: Drama. The relationship between a geneticist and a woman stricken with breast cancer whose family has been devastated by the disease leads to a groundbreaking discovery. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 An important film about an amazing true story that hasn’t gotten the coverage it deserves.
IDA (Music Box) Genre: Drama. In 1962 Communist Poland, a novice about to take her vows visits the aunt she never knew she had and discovers a troubling past and an uncertain future. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 1.6 Filmed in glorious black and white, this played the Florida Film Festival this past month. See the review here.
MR. JONES (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. After relocating to a remote cabin to kickstart their artistic vision, a young couple run afoul of a reclusive artist who plunges them into his nightmares. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only.  RATING: 2.8 Another found footage horror flick; to be honest I’m getting a little tired of these.
THE PROTECTOR 2 (Magnet) Genre: Martial Arts. A man, searching for a stolen elephant, is implicated in a brutal murder and is chased by the police, the vengeful nieces of the murdered man and a ruthless crimelord.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 More Tony Jaa action goodness.
WALK OF SHAME (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a one night stand, a budding news anchorwoman on the day of her most important interview ever finds herself across town without ID, money or a means of getting to where she has to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’ve always liked Elizabeth Banks; she deserves to be a bigger star than she is.
WHITEWASH (Oscilloscope) Genre: Thriller. When a snowplow operator accidentally kills a man during a drunken joyride, he flees to the Quebec woods to evade the authorities and his own conscience but you can’t run away from yourself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Thomas Haden Church is an underrated actor.

MAY 7, 2014

BREASTMILK (CAVU) Genre: Documentary. Tackles the somewhat polarizing debate over breastfeeding and the various permutations of the subject. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles May 16). RATING: 2.1 The obvious joke is “it’s a titillating subject” but it is no less important for all that.

MAY 9, 2014

CHEF (Open Road) Genre: Comedy. Jon Favreau stars as a fine dining chef tired of the overbearing owner of his restaurant who decides to open up his own food truck instead. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Should be absolute catnip to foodies.
DEVIL’S KNOT (RLJ/Image) Genre: True Crime. The story of the West Memphis Three is dramatized in this the first of two movies on the subject. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 An amazing cast with terrific Canadian director Atom Egoyan with a compelling story spells one of this month’s must-sees.
THE DOUBLE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Based on Dostoyevsky’s story, a mild-mannered cubicle worker in a dystopian future that’s a cross between William Burroughs and Terry Gilliam finds his life taken over by an exact double.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best film I saw at the Florida Film Festival this year.
FARMLAND (D&E) Genre: Documentary. A look at young farmers struggling to maintain a way of life in an era of corporate factory farms and high-tech agribusiness. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 2.5 The future of farming has been bleak indeed but here are some folks who can change that.
FED UP (Radius) Genre: Documentary. New research in the midst of an obesity epidemic indicates that our conceptions of diet and exercise may be wrong. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Is childhood obesity the result of a sugar addiction that is as powerful as nicotine?
GOD’S POCKET (IFC) Genre: Drama. A construction worker whose stepson dies “accidentally” tries to hide the truth and the body but is having difficulty with both. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The directing debut of actor John Slattery and one of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last films.
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime Entertainment) Genre: Animated Feature. Dorothy returns to Oz to rescue her old friends, making new friends along the way: Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.3 The animation looks cheap and the filmmakers are not using an L. Frank Baum story but rather one by his great-grandson. Cheap again.
MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) Genre: Comedy. A group of frazzled moms, in need of a night of relaxation, leave their kids with their husbands and venture out for a night on the time, soon discovering they are really rusty at having fun and their husbands are an utter disaster with the kids. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Seems to me that this is the kind of movie that reinforces tired old stereotypes and likely will not be all that funny.
NEIGHBORS (Universal) Genre: Comedy. With a new baby, a blissful suburban couple have their peace and quiet shattered when a rowdy fraternity moves in next door. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I usually love Seth Rogen so I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt.
PALO ALTO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. At a suburban high school, relationships and emotions spiral out of control as desires are given into and bad choices are the order of the day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A paean to high school angst penned by James Franco and directed by Gia Coppola.
STAGE FRIGHT (Magnet) Genre: Horror Comedy. A serial killer stalks the summer showcase of a snooty performing arts summer camp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks a little offbeat and just gory enough to satisfy fans of horror and comedy.

MAY 16, 2014

A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO (Phase 4) Genre: Adventure. An elderly Texas rancher, forced off his land and on the eve of being sent to a retirement home, has one last hurrah with his grandson on a road trip South of the Border. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Robert Duvall goes all Gus McCrae on our ass.
A SHORT HISTORY OF DECAY (Paladin) Genre: Drama. A Brooklyn hipster summoned down to Florida to care for his elderly father finds the means of jump-starting his stalled writing career within grasp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Any chance to see the great Linda Lavin at work is worth the effort.
AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. Conceptual artist Weiwei spends a year under house arrest by the Chinese government. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 The second documentary about Weiwei in two years.
CHINESE PUZZLE (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After his ex-wife leaves him and takes his kids to New York, a Parisian follows and tries to start over in the Big Apple. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 The conclusion of a trilogy begun by director Cedric Klapisch beginning with L’Auberge Espagnole.
THE DISCOVERERS (Quadratic) Genre: Dramedy. On the way to a conference to restart his moribund career and connect with his kids, a history professor has to change course when his father disappears on a trek to follow the path of Lewis and Clark. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Griffin Dunne looks special in it and I gotta give props to a movie with so much love for history.
GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. The arrogance of science comes back to haunt us in the form of gigantic, hideous creatures bent on world destruction. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.1 Since the trailer for this broke, it has become one of the most anticipated movies of the summer.
HALF A YELLOW SUN (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. Two women endure the turbulent times of the short-lived Republic of Biafra in the late 60s.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 With Chiwetel Ejiofor in it, there is reason enough to seek this out right there.
THE IMMIGRANT (Radius) Genre: Drama. A woman immigrating from Poland to the United States in the early 20th Century is forced into prostitution but may find salvation through a stage magician who happens to be the cousin of her tormentor. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.2 A beautiful looking film with an amazing cast – Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix – wow!
MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) Genre: True Sports Drama. Desperate for a high-profile client to save his business, a sports agent hits upon the scheme of sponsoring a competition among Indian cricketers to find the first Major League Baseball player from India. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Looks kind of charming with Jon Hamm starring but not intriguing enough to be a must-see.
WOLF CREEK 2 (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. Another tourist in the outback comes into the sights of a serial killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one.

MAY 23, 2014

THE ANGRIEST MAN IN BROOKLYN (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. A normally disagreeable sort of man discovers he has 90 minutes to live and sets out to make amends to everyone he has ever hurt. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like the Robin Williams movie we’ve been waiting for.
BLENDED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a disastrous date leaves two single parents unwilling to ever see each other again, they both unknowingly sign up for the same African safari and they and their kids are forced to share the same luxury suite. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 The third on-screen pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore makes this far more intriguing than it otherwise might be.
COLD IN JULY (IFC) Genre: Thriller. When a homeowner investigating noises in his house one night and accidentally shoots and kills a lowlife burglar, he doesn’t count on having the thief’s father show up looking for revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Michael C. Hall from Dexter and Sam Shepard make for some good conflict.
GRAND DEPART (Rialto) Genre: Drama. Two brothers find their situation in life changing due to the declining health of their father. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Looks like one of those films that has some serious sobs and some warm fuzzies as well.
THE LOVE PUNCH (Ketchup) Genre: Comedy. When their retirement nest egg is stolen, a divorced couple join forces to get their money back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With the very likable Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as the couple, there’s much to look forward to with this one.
STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. The 13-year-old son of illegal immigrants wanders away from his parents and gets lost in New York City – just as Hurricane Sandy is about to hit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Has a real New York vibe which might not appeal as much to those outside the city limits.
TRACKS (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. A city-bred young woman determines to cross 2000 miles of Australian desert with nothing more than her dog and four mercurial camels. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An Aussie film with an epic scope and Mia Wasikowska for good measure.
WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romance. Two burned-out teachers, both wounded physically and psychologically, get into a debate over which is more important – words or pictures – and in so doing inspire their apathetic students unexpectedly. Release Strategy: Limited.  RATING: 1.9 Another Florida Film Festival entry, this time with Clive Owen and the fabulous Juliette Binoche top-lining.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (20th Century Fox) Genre: Superhero. The world devastated by gigantic robots gone amok, Wolverine is sent into the past by Professor X to convince his younger self to rally the X-Men and prevent the cataclysm from happening but the trouble is, his younger self isn’t inclined to help. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.0 Judging from the trailer, this might well be the best film in the series.

MAY 27, 2014

TAPPED OUT (Grindstone) Genre: Action. Ordered to do community service in a run-down Karate school, a teen with a chip on his shoulder enters an MMA tournament to face the man who killed his parents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Sounds too hokey to be true. 

MAY 28, 2014

THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE (IFC) Genre: Documentary. A charming and charismatic African-American woman in the 1930s takes to a life of crime to survive and manages to amass a fortune, continuing her nefarious ways into her 60s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Looks to be a fascinating documentary; looking forward to seeing it.

MAY 30, 2014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A cowardly sheep rancher is transformed by a mysterious woman into a gunfighter to face down a notorious outlaw in a town where unusual fatalities are a way of life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 Another irreverent but hysterical film from Seth MacFarlane.
DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (The Collective) Genre: Horror. While a reality show documents a young couple’s pregnancy, the mother-to-be comes to believe that her unborn child is afflicted with demonic possession.  Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 An intriguing premise but I must admit I’m a little burned out on found footage horror right now.
FILTH (Magnolia) Genre: Dark Comedy. An arrogant police detective believes that if he solves a murder that he’ll win the promotion he deserves and his estranged wife will return to him but things rarely go the way we expect them to. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 James McAvoy like you’ve never seen him before.
THE GRAND SEDUCTION (eOne) Genre: Comedy. A town desperate to attract a petrochemical plant needs to prove that there is a resident doctor, which they have none; when fate sends one their way, a pair of unemployed fishermen set out to prove to the doc that their tiny town is the paradise he’s been looking for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A charming comedy of the Canadian Maritimes.
LUCKY THEM (IFC) Genre: Romance. More interested in partying than reporting, an aging rock journalist is given an assignment – to find a reclusive rock legend who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church are two of my favorite actors.
MALEFICENT (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. Disney’s most nefarious villain gets her story told as she changes from a young idealist to a hate-filled sorceress when her land is overrun by a corrupt king. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.2 Is it disrespectful to say that Angelina Jolie is perfect casting for this?
NIGHT MOVES (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. When a trio of environmental activists plot to blow up a dam in Oregon, they don’t realize the consequences that their actions will be severe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From Kelly Reichardt, one of my favorite emerging directors.
WE ARE THE BEST! (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Three young misfits, in search of a cause in the 80s, decide to form an all-female punk band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A joyous celebration of the punk spirit.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ida, The Double, Mom’s Night Out, Neighbors, Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm, Blended, X-Men: Days of Future Past, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent

Florida Film Festival 2014


Florida Film Festival 2014Last night, the Florida Film Festival announced their line-up for 2014 and it is another impressive one. The Festival will run from April 4 through April 13 this year and 170 feature films and shorts are on this year’s menu. While we won’t be previewing all of them, this is just a taste of some of the films you can expect to see.

Last year’s opening night film, 20 Feet From Stardom, went on to win an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and opening night guests were wowed by one of the film’s stars, Merry Clayton (the female voice on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”) crooning a sensual and amazing version of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.” While that set an awfully high bar, this year’s opening film has plenty of quality of its own. A Trip to Italy is the sequel to 2010’s The Trip and returns stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as well as director Michael Winterbottom. Once again Coogan and Brydon play versions of themselves, sent to write restaurant reviews but this time not in the North of England but in Italy. They kept audiences in stitches with their impressions and comedic routines but deep down there was a story that kept the interest of the readers. I can’t wait to see what they do in the sequel.

Ernest and Celestine netted an Oscar nomination of its own for Best Animated Feature at the recent Academy Awards and while it lost to Frozen this story about the unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse is sure to delight children of every age. The British crime comedy Dom Hemingway stars Jude Law as a safe cracker newly released from prison who wants to reconnect with his daughter and settle his debts but that proves to be a proposition far less easy than it sounds. For No Good Reason documents artist Ralph Steadman’s remarkable career, his collaborations with writers Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs and of course his unsettling and iconic drawings. Johnny Depp hosts this passion project. 

Joe is the latest from director David Gordon Green and stars Nicolas Cage as a rough and tumble ex-con with a hair-trigger temper who falls in with a young boy whose life has been at least as hard luck as his own. The ex-con takes a liking to the boy who finds in Joe a father figure which doesn’t sit too well with the boy’s actual father. This is said to be one of Cage’s best performances in years and might just elevate him out of the poor reputation he’s had in recent years. The Double is a stylish modernization of the Dostoevsky novella in which a shy and abused young worker, played by Jesse Eisenberg, has his life taken over by a brash and manipulative doppelganger, also played by Eisenberg. 

Gabrielle is a French-Canadian romance about a developmentally challenged woman’s quest to assert her independence. Obvious Child tackles the controversial subject of abortion as a young stand-up comedian finds her life turned upside down by an unexpected pregnancy. Before I Disappear chronicles a despondent young man’s attempts to commit suicide marred by his responsibility to babysit his niece. In Words and Pictures stars Clive Owens and Juliette Binoche play teachers of English and Art who in an effort to inspire students who couldn’t care less declare a war between words and images. Cheatin’ is the newest animated feature by Oscar winning animator Bill Plympton – ’nuff said. 

Crimes Against Humanity pairs a woman whose pet rabbit has died and who has been hospitalized with frequent nosebleeds with a pompous boyfriend whose investigation of sexual escapades at the university he works at becomes an obsession. In I Believe in Unicorns a woman with a vivid imagination falls for a skateboarding punk and chooses to run away with him, leaving her disabled mother behind. Doomsdays covers two slackers who convinced the apocalypse is just around the corner take to squatting in vacant Catskills vacations homes until the food runs out or they are chased off. The addition of two other would-be squatters changes the dynamic irrevocably. This year’s Audience Award winner at Slamdance was Copenhagen, a voyage of discovery of a young man who journeys to the Danish capital to discover his last living relative and finds love instead. Last I Heard stars Paul Sorvino as a mob boss who returns from prison to find that his gang has become inconsequential and the world a far different place than he left it. 

No No: A Dockumentary follows the fabled career of Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Dock Ellis who famously pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD in 1970. How he overcame his addictions and reached out to help others in similar straits is one of baseball’s great untold stories. Levitated Mass is a fascinating look at artist Michael Heizer’s monumental task of transporting a 340 ton boulder from a Southern California quarry to the L.A. County Museum of Art and creating a media and social sensation in the process. American Jesus examines the pervasive Christianity in all it’s different forms and effects on American culture as seen through the eyes of a Spaniard. 

Mail order brides is the subject of Love Me as the documentary filmmaker follows several relationships that were established in that manner and discovers that they aren’t all you might think. Mission Congo details the abuses of an American televangelist in the Congo following the Rwandan genocide under the guise of humanitarian aid. The Sacrament is the latest from horror auteur Ti West and covers a filmmaking crew’s descent into the hellish secret of a Utopian religious cult during a documentary shoot. The Babadook was one of the films at this year’s Sundance that got a great deal of attention; in it a single mom reads to her son from a mysterious storybook which prompts strange and frightening occurrences in their home.

Chu and Blossom stars Ryan O’Nan, Mercedes Ruehl and Melanie Lynskey in a story about  a unique Korean exchange student adjusting to life in the United States. After Winter, Spring is a loving tribute to a way of life that is rapidly disappearing – the French family farm. Led Zeppelin Played Here looks into a mythic concert that may or may not have taken place. 

In addition to new movies, there are some classics that will be available at the Festival this year including the Oscar-winning murder mystery Murder on the Orient Express with an all-star cast, The Big Lebowski which is one of the Coen Brothers’ classics, the Italian thriller Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and the James Bond classic Goldfinger

There are usually celebrities involved at Film Festivals and the FFF has had their share. Not all of the celebrity attendees have been confirmed at press time but two who are on the list for 2014 include Paul Sorvino who will be in attendance on Friday April 11 for the screening of his new film Last I Heard and Giancarlo Esposito for a screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary.

That’s just a rundown of some of the films that will be on the docket for this year’s Festival. There are also panel discussions and of course the legendary parties that the Festival throws every year.Ticket packages and passes are on sale now at the website (just click on the logo above to go directly there) and individual film tickets will be on sale Saturday, March 15th. 

This promises to be another memorable Festival and if you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to go and experience it firsthand. Words can’t describe the experience but it is fun, engaging and unforgettable. Filmmakers and celebrities rub elbows with film fans at the Festival and you never know who you will run into while grabbing a drink at the Eden Bar at the Enzian. It might even be me.

As always, movies from the festival will have the Festival logo above attached to the review to mark it as a proud participant in the 2014 Festival. Cinema365 will cover the Festival from beginning to end and beyond – last year we posted over 50 reviews of Festival films and related events and we should be in the same neighborhood this year. This is one event that I look forward to all year long and as we get closer to opening night, the excitement is building exponentially. This truly is one of the great Film Festivals in the country – it has been ranked as one of the 50 best in the entire world by IndieWire and the top 25 coolest in the country by MovieMaker magazine. That isn’t by accident; while I do tend to gush about the Festival it is really a unique event. If you love movies – and even if you don’t love ’em but just love to socialize – this is your event. Get your tickets now – you’ll thank me for it later.