While many modern cinephiles are going gaga for adventurous producers like Annapurna Pictures (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Master,” “Her,” and “American Hustle,” to name a few), there’s also another game in town that’s quietly building up an impressive roster. Barely a year old, indie distribution company A24 has made quite a name for itself in the last year for acquiring domestic rights to auteur-driven indie fare such as Sally Potter‘s “Ginger & Rosa,” Harmony Korine‘s “Spring Breakers,” Sofia Coppola‘s “The Bling Ring,” and James Ponsoldt‘s “The Spectacular Now” (some of our favorite films of the past year).
2014 is shaping up to be another banner year for the company that seems to be taking over the niche Film District filled when they first began (they’ve now been folded into Focus Features). So far, the company has five films set for 2014 and three of them just received release dates. They are: “Under The Skin,” “Enemy” and “Locke,” and while none of them arrive until the spring, we’ve seen them all.
“Under The Skin” is an unnerving sci-fi-ish psychological horror about an alien seductress who preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland. It’s directed by Jonathan Glazer, the filmmaker behind “Sexy Beast” and “Birth” (two of the best films of the aughts), and its the filmmaker’s first film in almost 10 years. Starring Scarlett Johansson, in our review from Telluride, Chris Willman wrote that the movie is “a sister film to ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth.’ Glazer shares Nicolas Roeg’s taste in elliptical storytelling and interplanetary tragedy, arriving at something you could almost call horror with a heart.” Catching it in Venice, Oliver Lyttelton gave us five reasons why it was one of the best movies of the year (it also made his 2013 Top 10 list). Given spring time is the new season for smart indies, “Under The Skin” will arrive in theaters on April 4th. Check out our interview with Glazer and check out the first mesmerizing trailer in case you missed it earlier in the year.
Next up is “Enemy,” which was actually the first collaboration between “Incendies” director Dennis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal. Their second team-up, “Prisoners” co-starring Hugh Jackman hit theaters in September of last year, but it’s this dark psychological mind-fuck that was shot first. Co-starring Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon and Isabella Rossellini, “Enemy” is mostly a two hander starring Jake Gyllenhaal and well, Jake Gyllenhaal, and it centers on an isolated and lonely university lecturer who seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie. Our A-grade review from the Toronto International Film Festival called it a “haunting look at our dark desires” and this lofty superlative: “Imagine the Paul Thomas Anderson of ‘There Will Be Blood‘ making a Brian De Palma movie, or Claire Denis directing Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento.’ ” In case you missed them, here’s a teaser trailer, the first clip from the film and our interview with Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal. “Enemy” is scheduled to hit theaters on March 14th.
Finally, we have “Locke” starring Tom Hardy (“Mad Max Fury Road,” “The Dark Knight Rises“). Directed by writer-turned-filmmaker Steven Knight (known for penning “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Eastern Promises“), “Locke” is a self-contained dramatic thriller about a man’s who’s life unravels during a 90-minute race against time. Set entirely within a moving car, the only actor on screen is Tom Hardy and he only interacts with other people (like his wife played by Ruth Wilson) over his cell phone. It’s a risky high concept, but our review from Venice says the film pulled it off, noting: “It’s a very complete portrait of a man — one who can be commanding, weak, funny, loving, cold, single-minded, selfless and selfish — and by the end of the drive you feel like you’ve known [him] for years.” The film will also make its North American debut at Sundance later this month and you can watch the first clip from the picture here.”Locke” will make its theatrical debut on April 25th.
We ran our part one of our Most Anticipated Films of 2014 yesterday. You may ask, will you see these in part two? Put it this way, if you haven’t seen them, they are all must-watch films for this coming year. Still cooking on A24’s release schedule for later in the year is Kevin Smith‘s “Tusk” which will land in the fall and David Michod‘s “The Rover” starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson which will roll out TBD 2014.