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The 21 Best Films Of 2014 We’ve Already Seen

The 21 Best Films Of 2014 We've Already Seen

The more OCD among us here at Playlist Towers find it a source of constant aggravation that release dates vary so much from territory to territory, and festivals often get premieres a full 18-or-so months before a film gains a proper U.S. release—making a cut-and-dry list of any given year’s movies less science than art. And while it’s an art that has already yielded our first magnum opus of the year, the 100 Most Anticipated Movies Of 2014, (and we should probably be awarded the rest of January off as a result) there’s still a category of film we’ve left unmined: those movies that we saw and reviewed in 2013 at festivals or sneak screenings or parts foreign tha t won’t be in theaters until 2014.

And so we went back to the grindstone to bring you this list of 20 (plus a host of honorable mentions and also rans) of the films that very well might have made it onto our Most Anticipated list had we not already seen them, along with summaries of and links to our original reviews, and their release dates, where they have them. If, in general, foretelling what’s going to be good and what’s not is a bit of a blindfolded darts game, these films at least are known quantities, and on their strength alone, we can be pretty excited for 2014.

The Zero Theorem
Synopsis: Qohen, a reclusive man, who’s spent his life waiting for a phone call, is asked to solve the Zero Theorem, an equation that proves that existence is meaningless.
Verdict: The world’s eyes might be on the Monty Python reunion later in 2014, but Terry Gilliam has something more pressing on the way: the release of his latest film, “The Zero Theorem,” which premiered at Venice last year. Starring Christoph Waltz, David Thewlis, Melanie Thierry and Matt Damon, it’s not, as Oliver said in his review, “an unreserved return to form, but it’s an admirably ambitious and thoughtful sci-fi mindbender.” The film’s bright future world is “a bit passé,” but once it gets going, it’s probably Gilliam’s best in at least a decade, with an “atypical and human” performance from Waltz in particular, and “rich production and costume design.” More importantly than anything, it cuts close to the bone, with much of the film feeling like Gilliam confronting his own mortality: “for all the film’s flaws, it feels like a very personal and moving piece of work as Qohen moves towards some kind of acceptance that his time on Earth will be brief in the grand scale of things… it’s not so much a film about a search for a meaning, as an embrace of meaningless, and it’s fascinating in that respect.” That alone makes it more valuable than anything the director’s made for a long while.
Our Review: Oliver’s B- verdict from Venice
Release Date: Has distribution in most of the world except the U.S, but we’re sure that’ll change before too long.

Synopsis: In a small, snowy Maine town, a brief moment of negligence by two women causes a tragedy that impacts the whole community.
Verdict: The feature directorial debut of Lance Edmands, who served as editor on Lena Dunham‘s breakout “Tiny Furniture” couldn’t be much different from Dunham’s film: a quiet, devastating drama with a cast of actors better known for their TV work than screen appearances: Amy Morton of “Blue Bloods,” John Slattery of “Mad Men,” Adam Driver from “Girls” and Margo Martindale from “Justified” among them. But according to our Rodrigo Perez when he saw the film at Tribeca last year, it can sit alongside any all-star Hollywood cast, proving to be an “affecting and moving examination of family, mothers, connectedness and the ripple effect of tragic consequences.” That ace cast are all excellent, especially the “terrific” Morton and the “outstanding” Krause, while “Martha Marcy May Marlene” DoP Jody Lee Lipes gives it all a “beautifully stark and disquieting look.” Despite the melodramatic set-up, director Edmands “resists all levels of melodrama in sentimentality, and yet the picture is just as arresting and emotional as any drama I’ve seen this year, albeit in a quiet manner.” Sounds like Edmands is very much one to watch in the future.
Our Review: Rod’s B+ review from Tribeca can be found here.
Release Date: Again, no U.S. distributor yet, hopefully that’ll change soon.

Synopsis: In 1960s Poland, a young orphan girl about to take her vows as a nun discovers that she’s Jewish, and sets out on a road trip with her only living relative.
Verdict: Pawel Pawlikowski is an undervalued filmmaker (best known for “My Summer Of Love“), who aside from his return with 2012’s disappointing “The Woman In The Fifth,” has been away for too long. But he came storming back with “Ida,” a beautiful little black-and-white Bressonian gem. Oli caught it first at the London Film Festival, calling it “absolutely stunning, one of the year’s best films,” and Jess reviewed it in full in Marrakech, agreeing that it’s a “small, quiet, polished film that unfolds slowly but with remarkable assurance,” with some “truly remarkable cinematography,” and a “striking central performance” from young Polish actress Agata Trzebuchowska. It’s a little film that might not be for everyone, but as the winner of the top prize at the BFI London Film Festival, we clearly weren’t alone.
Our Review: Jess’ B+ review from Marrakech is here, or you can read Oli’s take in his year-end list, where it placed at No. 4.
Release Date: Gets a U.K. release in September, and in the U.S., Music Box Films has the rights, and we await a firm date.

Mood Indigo
Synopsis: A young man falls in love with a girl, but on the honeymoon after they marry, inhales a spore that gives her a terminal illness, which can only be cured with endless fresh flowers.
Verdict: The opening sentence of Jess’ review of Michel Gondry‘s new film “Mood Indigo” from Karlovy Vary is one of the best things we ran last year, so this is probably a good place to reprint it: “So if we were to CHROME CARROTS attempt to replicate the PERSPEX LIMO omnipresent inventiveness of TINY MOUSE IN A TINY HOUSE Michel Gondry’s latest film throughout the PIANO THAT MAKES COCKTAILS course of this review, it would SUNLIGHT IS STRING get pretty old, pretty damn RUBIK’S CUBE ORGANISER quick.” And that should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re in for: lots of Gondry’s trademark endlessly inventive visuals, “full of manic little details and tricksy filmmaking which charms and exhausts in equal measure.” Aside from an unexpectedly downbeat second half, the film is a “huge Rube Goldberg machine, full of lights and buzzers and levers that ping and whistle endearingly, but are connected to nothing and serve no greater function in the larger apparatus. And while it feels churlish to complain about too much care and intricate creativity lavished on a production when most Hollywood films suffer from a lack of same, at 2 hours 15 minutes it just wore us down.” All that said, Gondry’s been cutting the film down by as much as thirty-five minutes, so it’ll be interesting to see if the new cut is more palatable.
Review: Jess’ B-/C+ take from Karlovy Vary can be read here, though bear in mind the finished film is likely to be quite different, and certainly this is one case where less may definitely prove more.

Release Date: No U.S. distributor yet, hopefully one’ll materialize before too long.

“Stray Dogs”
Synopsis: The story of a family living between the cracks in a Taiwanese city, it follows a homeless father and his two children trying to survive as they mourn the departure of the mother.
Verdict: A new film from Tsai Ming-Liang was always going to be an event for the artsier kind of cinephile and “Stray Dogs” (which the Taiwanese director of “Goodbye Dragon Inn” claimed was his last film, though he seems to have another, “Journey To The West,” starring Denis Lavant, premiering in Berlin in February) did not disappoint. Oliver caught the film at Venice, calling it one of the five best of the festival, and saying that “almost as much as anything he’s ever made, ‘Stray Dogs’ frustrates those looking for answers or traditional narrative, and moves at an especially sleepy pace, with some shots lasting around the ten-minute mark.” But the mood, “more dream-like than kitchen sink” is unforgettable, and the form is “fully realized and strongly executed,” with every shot feeling “perfectly composed,” and every time Tsai makes a cut, you can’t see how it could have been done any other way.” In short, while it’s not for the blockbuster crowd, it’s a true masterclass from a filmmaker that we’re glad isn’t hanging his hat up any time soon.
Our Review: Oli’s A- take from Venice is here.
Release Date: Despite glowing reviews and placement on quite a few critics’ 2013 lists, U.S. distribution has proven elusive so far. Surely someone will step in sooner rather than later.

Breathe In
Synopsis: The arrival of a precocious, talented and beautiful foreign exchange student disrupts the fragile equilibrium of a family in Upstate, New York.
Verdict: While parts of the extramarital affair plot can seem familiar and cliched in its third act, “Breathe In,” still wins out on feeling due to terrific performances and a director who can can always navigate the nuances of fragile emotions. And it’s not just a good cast, it’s a stellar one that includes Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones and Amy Ryan all working at the top of their game. Plus it also boasts a striking breakout performance by Mackenzie Davis as the daughter overlooked and outshone by Jones’ bright, mature, cello-playing student who unlocks a dormant musical desire and passion in Pearce’s father character. Already having convinced us on his sophomore effort, “Like Crazy,” director Drake Doremus continues his evolution from comedic indie filmmaker into a sharply attuned observer of intimate mood, heartache and longing. The film also continues the gorgeous musical relationship between Doremus and “Like Crazy” composer Dustin O’Halloran, who might just be the best “classical” composer you haven’t heard of yet and his plaintive piano score is just breathtaking.
Our review: Rodrigo’s B+ review from Sundance last year.
Release Date: March 28th via Cohen Media

Synopsis: An ex-con befriends a troubled kid, whose violent, alcoholic father is causing serious problems for the family.
Verdict: His studio comedy phase (which had somewhat varying success rates) seemingly in the past, David Gordon Green seems to have returned to the territory on which he made his name, and between “Prince Avalanche” and this year’s Al Pacino-starring “Manglehorn,” he made this, which teams him up with “Mud” star Tye Sheridan, and Nicolas Cage, the latter making something of a return to quality fare after a long series of low-rent actioners. It’s undoubtedly Gordon Green’s darkest since “Snow Angels,” but successful for that: as Oli put it in Venice: “It’s not exactly doing anything new, but it’s a muscular and textured piece of work that shifts assuredly through tones and genre.” Combining that tough genre plotting with “a loose easy naturalism” inspired by his comedy work, it ultimately qualifies as Green’s first western. And while Sheridan and his screen father Gary Poulter are both terrific, it’s most notable for being Cage’s best performance in at least a decade, with the cult performer “going easy on the high volume and bug-eyes that have been something of a crutch of late.” And that alone should be enough for you to put it on your radar.
Our Review: Oli’s review from Venice, which gave the film a B+
Release Date: Roadside Attractions will release the film on April 11.

“The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her”
Synopsis: After the disappearance of a young New York woman, her marriage, and its dissolution after the death of their child, is told from both her perspective and that of her partner in two inter-linked, complementary films.
Verdict: A two-part, three-hour movie would be ambitious for any filmmaker, but especially so for a first-time feature director. But by most accounts, including ours, debut filmmaker Ned Benson pulled it off with “The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby” when the film(s) premiered in a work-in-progress form at TIFF last September. Northern Playlist contributor Nikola Grozdanovic saw both parts, and found it “a remarkably well made relationship film,” using a “Rashomon“-like conceit cunningly across a “multi-layered, organically paced, delicate and quite often hilarious screenplay,” with a “perfect ensemble cast” led by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, with Isabelle Huppert, Ciaran Hinds, Bill Hader, Viola Davis, William Hurt and Jess Weixler among those in support. Ultimately, it looks like we might have “a finely tuned and tenderly detailed love story of two people told on a cosmic scale” to look forward to.
Our Review: Nikola’s A- take from TIFF can be found here.
Release Date: The Weinstein Company has the rights, but haven’t set a date yet. Will they roll it out in the summer, or will they hold it and make an awards run with it?

Starred Up
Synopsis: A violent young offender is sent to the same prison as his father, a long-term inmate.
Verdict: Young British actor Jack O’Connell is about to have a big year: he features in the “300” sequel, has the lead in Angelina Jolie‘s “Unbroken,” and is strongly rumored to be up for a part in “Star Wars.” But we’d be surprised if anything he does in 2014 is as good as “Starred Up,” an electric prison drama from director David Mackenzie, co-starring Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend. Oliver caught the movie at the London Film Festival back in October, and says that it “nods to Alan Clarke‘s ‘Scum‘ and Jacques Audiard‘s ‘A Prophet’… but it’s not in thrall to its influences either, Mackenzie finding a muscular-yet-tender tone all of his own.” The cast are all excellent performing an authentic, lyrical script from former prison psychologist Jonathan Asser, but it’s O’Connell who’s the true standout, delivering a “stunning, incendiary performance.” One of the real gems of the coming year.
Our Review: Only a brief capsule from the LFF from Oli, but with an A- grade.
Release Date: Tribeca Film has it in the U.S., but no date yet. Fox puts it out in the U.K. on Friday March 21st.

“Tom At The Farm”
Synopsis: A young man travels to a countryside farm for the funeral of his boyfriend, only to discover that the family had no idea about their son’s sexuality. He keeps up the deception, but soon finds that he might have made an error.
VerdictKelly Reichardt wasn’t the only director to take a shift into genre territory: French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan‘s fourth film, “Tom At The Farm,” based on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, is a taut, fascinating thriller that borrows a little something from the work of Patricia Highsmith, but has its own thing going on too. “The testy, shifting power plays in the relationship,” which is “strange and complex,” are certainly Highsmith-esque according to Oliver’s review, but the film too is strange and complex, with a “bold and lush” score by Gabriel Yared, and a very fine performance from Dolan himself in the lead role. At the time, Oli felt it worked “better as a family drama—or even melodrama—than as a straight-up thriller,” but it actually grew in estimation over time, and other Playlisters who’ve since caught the film had more immediately enthusiastic reactions.
Our ReviewOli’s B grade review from Venice is here, though he would like to make it known that he’s upgraded it to an A- in his head. 
Release Date: Sadly, no U.S. distributor yet: Dolan’s films sometimes take a while to make their way to these shores. Keep your fingers crossed.

Night Moves
Synopsis: An unlikely trio of eco-activists come together to blow up a dam.
Verdict: After “Wendy And Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” you could be mistaken for thinking you could know what to expect from a new film from Kelly Reichardt. What we weren’t expecting is a Hitchcockian and Chabrolian thriller of guilt and suspense, but it’s a left-turn that Reichardt makes with aplomb. At Venice, Oli found that the film kicks off with “an almost docudrama-like feeling to proceedings,” before a second half that “shifts effortlessly into a portrait of guilt.” As ever with the filmmaker, “the environment is just as much of a character as the people,” but she also takes to the genre elements nicely, with the final set-piece being “the most claustrophobic thing she’s made.” And at the center, as with “The Double,” is another marvelous performance from Jesse Eisenberg, “shorn of his motormouth, his assuredness and his tics, he’s a revelation here,” proving “sinister and vulnerable virtually within the same breath.”
Our Review: Oli’s A- take from Venice is here
Release Date: Cinedigm has U.S. rights and will release on a TBD April date.

“Blue Ruin”
Synopsis: A vagrant discovers that the man convicted of murdering his parents has been released from prison, and sets out to take vengeance, only to become a target of the killer’s family in turn.
Verdict: There are plenty of scuzzy revenge-type American independent genre movies out there, but for one to premiere in Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight suggests that it’s something special, and that’s exactly what “Blue Ruin” delivered by the time we caught up to it in Toronto. The follow-up to “Murder Party” by director Jeremy Saulnier, Gabe Toro found that the film avoids the wish-fulfillment of much of its genre, and as a consequence it’s a movie “of almost unbearable tension, a no-frills pressure cooker that rattles the senses not just for what occurs, but for what’s waiting just off screen at every turn.” He found it to be “the most suspenseful American film of the year, a thriller that feels like lightning across a quiet night sky: sudden, terrifying and excitingly singular.” Sounds like it could be just the ticket for genre fans.
Our Review: Gabe’s A- review from TIFF is here.
Release Date: Radius-TWC has the rights, but haven’t yet set a date.

Stranger By The Lake
Synopsis: Franck strikes up a platonic friendship at a lakeside cruising spot, and falls for another man, the handsome Michel, only to see Michel drown his lover one night.
Our Verdict: Among all the acclaimed films to bow at Cannes last year, there was one film that went in with no buzz and came out a true critic’s darling: Alain Guiraudie‘s “Stranger By The Lake,” which won Best Director in the Un Certain Regard strand, and went on to be named as Cahiers Du Cinema’s best film of 2013. Back on the Croisette, our Jessica Kiang concurred: saying that it was “tonally in the same vein of sunny noir as, say, Francois Ozon‘s “Swimming Pool,'” and that “Guiraudie creates an ambiance of eerie atmospherics that is at once crisp and observant, and oddly dreamlike, or nightmarish.” Shot at a distance by the filmmaker, and packed with some explicit sex (though Jess says that “there’s no mistaking the film for crude porn”), it’s very much a mood piece, with an “odd sense of claustrophobia, evoked paradoxically through beautiful widescreen photography,” and the film as a whole proving to be “a masterclass of tonal control.” Time to see what all the fuss is about, then…
Our Review: Jess’ B+ review from Cannes
Release Date: January 24th, 2014

Hide Your Smiling Faces
Synopsis: Two adolescent brothers grapple with life, displacement and mortality over the course of one summer when their parents move the family away and a local boy mysteriously dies.
Verdict: Easily our favorite film of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, the fantastic directorial debut of cinematographer/writer-turned-feature filmmaker Daniel Patrick Carbone, ‘Smiling Faces’ may have been the most striking debut we saw all last year (though not mentioned on our Breakout Directors list because it wasn’t released in 2013). Possessing a similar appreciation for the beauty and mysteries of childhood and nature, like David Gordon Green and Terrence Malick, plus a Michael Haneke-esque disquiet, Carbone’s film may have influences, but the director turns them into something unnerving, unforgettable and stunning. Understanding the beauty in terrible images and vice versa, what resonates most deeply is how Carbone skillfully articulates what the boys cannot express: they’re ill-equipped to emotionally deal with the tragedy around them and this frustration manifests in all kinds of behavior, sometimes destructive, sometimes just inquisitive. Already moody, “Hide Your Smiling Faces” has a terrific control of tone that’s shaped by a haunting soundscape-y score from Robert Donne of Labradford, Spokane. Let’s also hope it’s not the last we see of the child actors Nathan Varnson and Ryan Jones, both of whom deliver authentic and naturalistic performances.
Our review: Rodrigo’s A grade review from Tribeca.
Release Date: March 28 via Tribeca Films

Synopsis: In the course of one car journey from Birmingham to London, construction foreman Ivan Locke sees his life implode.
Verdict: The second directorial feature from “Eastern Promises” writer Steven Knight after so-so Jason Statham vehicle “Hummingbird,” “Locke” was both more stripped down and more ambitious: a film set entirely within a moving car, shot in real time, with only one actor on screen (the rest of the cast are heard over the phone, but never seen). But when that actor is the great Tom Hardy, you figure you’re in for something special, and “Locke” was the most pleasant surprise of the Venice Film Festival last year. Oli’s review says that Knight does a terrific job of making a morality play drama feel like a thriller, with an astonishing turn from Hardy, “giving the performance of his career to date.” Ultimately, it’s a sort of character study, “a 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 Ivan for years.” After 2013 brought impressive one-man shows from Sandra Bullock and Robert Redford, “Locke” is a very worthy successor.
Our Review: Oli’s B+ review from Venice last year.
Release Date: April 25th, 2014

The Immigrant
Synopsis: A Polish immigrant coming to America falls prey to a charming but wicked man who takes her in and forces her into prostitution.
Verdict: Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner as directed by James Gray (“We Own The Night,” “Two Lovers“), “The Immigrant” screamed Oscar-contender from the outset, but it’s actually quite a different animal with divergent concerns. A slow-burning emotional drama exploring the ideas of forgiveness and redemption via terrible characters that are nearly beyond salvation. Even more mature and patient than expected, especially for a filmmaker who has made a name on thoughtful and contemplative morality tales, “The Immigrant” won’t be for all audiences, but it’s still one of our favorites that we’ve seen so far, and boasts yet another astonishing performance from Phoenix, who is late-on revealed as just as pivotal to the film as Cotillard. Not to mention gorgeous cinematography from the great Darius Khondji.
Review: Here’s Jess’ B+ review from Cannes.
Release Date: April 2014 via TWC/Radius

Synopsis: An antisocial college lecturer in Toronto discovers that he has a doppelganger, a struggling actor.
Verdict: Last year, Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal teamed up for “Prisoners,” a gripping and beautifully made thriller that featured one of the best performances of the year from Gyllenhaal. But even before that, the pair had worked together fruitfully, quietly making Canadian indie “Enemy,” which premiered at TIFF alongside “Prisoners,” and according to our Rodrigo Perez, it’s even better. He described the film as an “equally dark but more experimental and arty cousin,” to the other film, like “Paul Thomas Anderson of ‘There Will Be Blood‘ making a Brian De Palma movie, or Claire Denis directing Christopher Nolan‘s ‘Memento.'” “Thick with weighty themes, disquieting portent and anxious tension,” according to Rodrigo, it cements Villeneuve’s talents, and showcases those of the supporting cast like Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon and Isabella Rosselini. And if you thought Gyllenhaal was great in “Prisoners,” you ain’t seen nothing yet: the actor “carries the entire film on his shoulders, and he delivers with a smoldering internalized performance of torment that is easily his finest work.” Look for this to be a little genre gem in the early part of this year.
Our ReviewRodrigo’s A grade review from TIFF can be found here.
Release Date: March 14th, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive
Synopsis: A pair of ageless vampire lovers, Adam and Eve, live at a remove from the modern world, but are dragged into it by Eve’s destructive sister Ava.
Verdict: The vampire movie might feel played out for most of us, but if anyone was going to find something new in it, it was Jim Jarmusch, who delivers with “Only Lovers Left Alive” his best, and most purely enjoyable, film in years. As Jess said when she dropped her verdict in Cannes, “It’s an offbeat, fun and frequently very funny film, lifted out of disposability by some wonderfully rich production design, music and photography, and by the cherishable performances of the leads.” And she wasn’t alone: the film ended up on our lists of our favorite films from both the New York and London Film Festivals too. The whole cast (which includes Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin and Jeffrey Wright) is terrific, but it’s really the showcase for Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, who play the star-crossed bloodsuckers, and the pair “are so good, and so well-matched, that their love story is surprisingly romantic and sexy.” Beautiful to look at and to listen to, this is a definite early-year treat.
Our Review: Jess’s B+ review from Cannes last May
Release Date: April 11th, 2014

Under The Skin
Synopsis: In modern-day Glasgow, an alien in the form of an attractive young woman stalks the city for lonely men. But could she be becoming more attached to the form she takes than she realizes?
Verdict: The long-awaited new film from Jonathan Glazer, the director of “Sexy Beast” and “Birth,” his first in nine years, was always going to get an awful lot of attention from us. And while it’s been divisive—it received boos at its Venice premiere from a select few—those of us who’ve seen it so far fell for it pretty hard. Telluride correspondent Chris Willman said that lead Scarlett Johansson is “perfectly cast,” and that while the “somber pacing and downer themes” may turn some off, “a cult audience with a penchant for SF morality tales may warm to this.” Oliver Lyttelton went much further in Venice, giving five reasons why it was one of the best movies of the year, including that it’s Glazer “at his most experimental and unfiltered,” that it’s “not quite like anything you’ve seen,” and that “it features some of the most striking images of the year.” If nothing else, it’s going to be worth seeing just for Mica Levi‘s “rhythmic, often drone-like, otherworldly and often terrifying” score, but there’s far more treasure to be found here.
Our Review: Chris’ B+ take from Telluride is here, Oli’s A-grade piece from Venice is here.
Release Date: April 4th, 2014

“The Double”
Synopsis: Mild-mannered office drone Simon James has his life take a dark turn when a doppelganger named James Simon joins his company, soon winning over colleagues and the girl that he secretly loves.
Verdict:Submarine” might not have been perfect, but it marked the arrival of a hugely exciting new voice in the shape of actor-turned-director Richard Ayoade. His follow-up, the Dostoevsky-indebted “The Double,” co-written with Avi Korine (Harmony’s brother), was worth the wait: an even more distinctive and odd film that’s quite different from anything else you’ll see in 2014. As Kevin said in Toronto, the film “matches its visual consistency with a narrative rhythm that is utterly engaging,” with a gorgeous look from DoP Erik Wilson, and a great score by Andrew Hewitt. It also has an “emotional and thematic pull that is surprisingly weighty for this sort of picture,” while among a strong and eclectic cast also including Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor, star Jesse Eisenberg “gives two excellent performances… [allowing] him to find new notes to both his trademark on-screen personas.” If Ayoade keeps growing like this as a director, the sky’s likely to be the limit.
Our Review: Kevin’s A- verdict from TIFF last September
Release Date: Magnolia picked it up, and has set the film for a May 9th release.

Synopsis: In a future where Earth has been turned into a frozen wasteland, humanity’s survivors are contained in a huge train, divided strictly by class, that endlessly circulates the planet. But the have-nots at the back have had enough, and mount a rebellion intended to take them all the way to the engine.
Verdict: Easily one of our most anticipated of the year, we started to worry if we’d ever see “Snowpiercer,” the English-language debut of Korean master Bong Joon-Ho (“The Host,” “Memories Of Murder,” “Mother“), given the bubbling controversy over the film and Harvey Weinstein‘s intentions to release a severely truncated version. But the film opened in France uncut in October, and U.K. correspondent Oliver Lyttelton hopped across the Channel to catch it, and found it more than worth the trip, calling it “the best pure science-fiction film since ‘Children Of Men.'” Building a “remarkably rich, coherent future world,” melding “tones without them clashing,” and with smart and complex politics underpinning “an inventive and exciting action film,” it also features some excellent performances from a cast including Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Song Kang-ho, among others. Fingers crossed that we all get to see the complete version before too long, otherwise there’s going to be a lot of Blu-Ray importing going on.
Our Review: Oli’s A grade review is here
Release Date: Who knows, but hopefully not far away.

More & Honorable Mention:
There are hardly only 21 films being released this year that we’ve already seen, but this felt like a manageable list. However, please bear in mind there are still some terrific choices in here (some of which we’re a little heartbroken about not being in the main list, but that’s compromise for you). Top of mind for us and battling for a spot on the main list were Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful animated swan song “The Wind Rises” and Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio’s drama “Gloria.” Miyazaki’s film is technically a 2013 movie as it did get an Oscar-qualifying run and ended up on a few of our Best of 2013 Top 10s as well as many other critics’ list, but it also technically doesn’t get a proper U.S. release until February 21. Either way, we wholeheartedly endorse it and encourage you to see it. You can read Oli’s review from Venice here. Lelio’s film falls into similar territory. It received an Oscar-qualifying run, but doesn’t arrive in theaters until January 24. But it also made Best Of 2013 Top 10s, particularly Jessica’s top 10, and we all felt so passionate about it we included it in a lot of our Best of 2013 coverage. Carried by a outstanding performance by Paulina García, there’s myriad reasons why we love “Gloria,” so we also fully encourage you to seek this one out. Here’s our review from Berlin and a New York Film Festival wrap-up that listed “Gloria” among the five favorite films seen. And also vying for a top spot was Jess’s Cannes favorite “Borgman” (you can read her A- review here, and it made her 2013 Top Ten as well) which she alone from the team has seen as it hasn’t got distribution yet, also the same case for Lisa Langseth’s excellent “Hotell” which garnered another A- out of Marrakech. 

And there’s more: Quentin Tarantino’s favorite film of the yearBig Bad Wolves” obviously can’t help but be overhyped, but as a dark comedy thriller and exercise in revenge, coming later this month, you could do a lot worse (review here). Other films just missing the cut: Oliver really loved “Miss Violence” at the Venice film festival and it made his five best films list (review here). The wacked-out, mostly silent black comedy “’Moebius” also made a lasting impression during Oli’s stay in Italy (review here). Hirokazu Koreeda is one of Japan’s best working directors today (his 2008 film, “Still Walking” is absolutely wonderful) so the intimate family drama “Like Father, Like Son” didn’t disappoint one bit (review here). The Australian made, Laos-set “The Rocket” is perhaps the greatest example of doing feel-good right, with a sentimentality that’s life-affirming rather than treacly (read our review here). Ari Folman‘s ambitious, nutty and partially animated “The Congress” starring Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Danny Huston, Jon Hamm Harvey Keitel and more debuted at Cannes and thrilled audiences at Fantastic Fest last year. Jess found it to be uneven, but still fascinating and we know the rest of the team still wants to experience it (review here). Also enjoyed at Fantastic Fest was “Grand Piano starring Elijah Wood (called “the best DePalma movie he never made”),and in Toronto, Catherine Breillat’sAbuse Of Weakness” and the black comedy “Don Hemmingway” starring a filthy and profane Jude Law and Richard E. Grant. “The Lunchboxout of TIFF featuring Irrfan Khan is definitely worthwhile as is “Palo Alto” starring Emma Roberts and The Railway Manwith Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, Lukas Moodyson’s “We Are The Best!” and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “The Young & Prodigious Spivet” (reviews to come soon on those last two).

Not so much “Best,” but films we saw in 2013 that are coming out in 2014 nevertheless, top of mind might be Jason Reitman’s “Labor Day” starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. A film that many of us have now caught up with it wasn’t quite the disaster some said it was out of Telluride, but it’s ill-suited material for Reitman to adapt. Some of us admire its commitment to its material—pitched somewhere between a soft thriller with a feminine bent and a soapy melodrama—and Reitman’s desire to try something completely out of his wheelhouse, but all of us agree it didn’t quite work (review here). Other films seen over the course of 2013 coming out in 2014, that we saw, but didn’t love (or in some cases totally disliked) include: “Hateship Loveship” starring the unlikely pair of Kristin Wiig and Guy Pearce, “Can A Song Save Your Life?” with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, “Bad Words,” “A Promise” starring Rebecca Hall, Atom Egoyan’s “The Devil’s Knot” with Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, the Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis-lead “You Are Here by “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, “In Secret” formerly known as Theresestarring Oscar Isaac and Elizabeth Olsen,Adult World” with John Cusack and Emma Roberts and Guillaume Canet‘s 70’s crime movie “Blood Ties,” featuring the ensemble of Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Marion Cotillard, Lili Taylor, James Cann and many more. If you’re extra-keen and want more 2014 films already seen, you could check out, all our Venice 2013 coverage, all our 2013 TIFF coverage, everything we wrote from Cannes 2013, everything from the 2013 New York Film Festival, Telluride, London BFI Film Festival, and Berlin. A few of these films will be playing Sundance 2014 too, so clearly the Utah programmers know how good they are too.

Which one of these films are you most anticipating or dying to see? Sound off below. And in case you missed it, here’s our 100 Most Anticipated Films Of 2014 (i.e., the films we haven’t seen yet). — Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez

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