“[REC] 4: Apocalypse” (Jan 2)
Aside from “The Blair Witch Project,” no film did found footage horror better than Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s terrifying “[REC],” which used a claustrophobic situation (a quarantined apartment complex) and a smart gimmick (after hours news report gone wrong) to heighten the terror. A pair of sequels, the first solid, the second less so, followed, and now the series comes to its conclusion with the ominously titled “[REC] 4: Apocalypse.”
“Art and Craft” (Jan 6)
The emotionally absorbing documentary “Art and Craft” has been garnering critical acclaim all year long on its road across the 2014 festival circuit, particularly at its Tribeca Film Festival debut in April. The story is centered on Mark Landis, one of the most prolific art forgers in the United States. For more than 30 years, Landis has duped art galleries across the country by posing as an affluent philanthropist and art patron wishing to donate rare works from his collection. But the “gifts” that he is bequeathing are actually precisely constructed reproductions of Picasso, Matisse and more that he himself has painted. The resulting documentary is both an empathetic representation of talent and well-rounded, compassionate portrait of an outsider with extreme artistic obsessions and some degree of misdiagnosed mental illness.
“Still Life” (Jan 13)
“Still Life” premiered at the 2013 Venice Film Festival winning four awards: the Orizzonti Award for Best Director, the Pasinetti Award for Best Film, Cinema D’Arte e d’Essai award, and the Civitas Vitae prossima for Best Film. Life for the unassuming John May (Eddie Marsan) has always revolved around his work for the local council in South London, finding the next of kin of those who have died alone. Profoundly dedicated to his work, he believes that everyone deserves a dignified exit, and writes eulogies and organizes funerals for those who wouldn’t have them otherwise. But when a new case – an elderly alcoholic in a flat directly opposite his own – hits him harder than usual, he journeys outside London to track down the man’s long-abandoned daughter (Joanne Froggatt). Against the odds, the two lonely souls are drawn to each other – and John’s outlook starts to open to life’s possibilities.
“Boyhood” (Jan 6)
12 years ago, Richard Linklater started production on a movie following the development of a child from the age of seven through the end of his teenage years. If there was ever project that demanded to be informed by the history of its making, “Boyhood” is it. Epic in scope yet unassuming throughout, Linklater’s incredibly involving chronicle marks an unprecedented achievement in fictional storytelling. Shot over the course of 39 days spread across more than a decade, “Boyhood” is an entirely fluid work that puts the process of maturity under the microscope and analyzes its nuances with remarkable detail.
“The Guest” (Jan 6)
Dan Stevens, best known for his character Matthew Crawley on “Downton Abbey,” now leads in director Adam Wingard’s action-packed thriller, “The Guest.” Stevens takes on the role of David, an Iraq war veteran who takes up residence with the family of his fallen comrade. But there’s more to the charming David than meets to eye — and even the trailer makes it unclear what his true motives are. The film is a sharp divergence from “Downton’s” historical amenities as we get to see a grittier side to Stevens, complete with an American accent to match his bar brawling and gun expertise. An overall varied cast partnered with Wingard’s penchant for comedy-horror makes “The Guest” a darkly delightful romp.
“Love is Strange” (Jan 13)
New York filmmaker Ira Sachs’ best work is steeped in understatement and introspective characters, from the disgruntled music producer played by Rip Torn in “Forty Shades of Blue” to the troubled gay couple in “Keep the Lights On.” In between those two projects, Sachs took an uneasy step into more traditional big budget filmmaking with the quasi-Hitchcockian “Married Life.” Like that movie, Sachs’ new work “Love Is Strange” features name actors and a polished look, but it remains remarkably faithful to the strongest ingredients in his other work: Featuring extraordinarily sensitive turns by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as an aging married couple forced to vacate their Manhattan apartment, “Love Is Strange” is a sophisticated take on contemporary urbanity infused with romantic ideals and the tragedy of their dissolution.
“Predestination” (Jan 9)
“Predestination” is written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig (the Spierig Brothers), who also made the Hawke starring “Daybreakers” in 2009. It pits Hawke as a temporal agent, a crime fighter of a unique sort — traveling back and forth through time to prevent crimes from happening. Undercover as a bartender, he strikes up an unlikely relationship with a customer, all the while trying to prevent a terror attack by a suspect known only as the Fizzle Bomber. With a firmly sci-fi plot, a traditional noir look and some very modern social themes, “Predestination” certainly is ambitious in all that it aims to do within its runtime.
“Little Accidents” (Jan 16)
“Little Accidents,” director Sara Colangelo’s first feature (developed in the Sundance Institute’s Writers’ Lab from her 2010 short of the same name) takes place in a small Appalachian mining town in the aftermath of a fatal accident. The only survivor, Amos Jenkins (Boyd Holbrook), is under pressure from the miners’ union to give testimony that one of the coal company’s executives, Bill Doyle (Josh Lucas) had previously refused to reexamine the company’s safety standards, despite his employees’ objections.
“Appropriate Behavior” (Jan 16)
The latest entrant in an emerging subgenre of character-driven comedies about neurotic young New Yorkers (epitomized by the success of HBO’s “Girls”), Desiree Akhavan’s “Appropriate Behavior” provides an enjoyably shrewd update to a potentially grating formula. The first-timer writes, directs and stars this blatantly autobiographical tale of a bisexual Brooklynite still in the closet to her strict Persian parents. That lingering dilemma forms only one piece of the equation in this sophisticated and persistently witty look at urban youth culture and arrested development. While hardly groundbreaking, Akhavan’s blend of cultural insights and sweetly relatable, self-deprecating humor provide a charming showcase for a new filmmaker worthy of discovery.