A marriage hits the rocks, or better yet the ice, in Ruben Östlund’s gruesomely “Force Majeure,” winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes and now a top contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The film centers on a Swedish couple and their children who are nearly destroyed by a false-alarm avalanche, and how the father’s split-second reaction to the incident shatters the family completely (and comically). As we enter full award season mode, this Swedish Oscar entry is one to watch, a chilly and impeccably mounted chamber dramedy that ridicules every one of its affluent characters without any compunction. (Read our interview with the director here.)
Director Gregg Araki sheds his new queer cinema roots for the Shailene Woodley vehicle “White Bird in a Blizzard,” about a 17-year-old girl named Kat whose sexual awakening is sparked by the spooky disappearance of her down-in-the-doldrums alcoholic mother, played with wicked malaise and malice by an out-of-place (but never out-of-step) Eva Green. With novelistic voiceover, sun-stained small town California setting and a killer soundtrack, it’s pure Araki and Woodley’s presence in such a dark and offbeat (though troubling) indie should help it find the audience it deserves.
“CITIZENFOUR,” Laura Poitras’s unflinching look at Edward Snowden’s final days before blowing the whistle on NSA surveillance, picked up raves at the New York Film Festival, and has now shot to the top of the Best Documentary Oscar pack. Poitras documents the eight days she spent in a Hong Kong hotel room with Snowden and Guardian journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill as Snowden prepares to drop the bomb on the world.
Lynn Shelton’s warm romantic comedy “Laggies,” meanwhile, picked up sizable critical acclaim along the fest circuit. It stars Keira Knightley as a late-blooming millennial who doesn’t know how to land, and Mark Webber as the high school flame who proposes out of the blue, sending Knightley’s character into the home of her 16-year-old friend (Chloe Grace Moretz). Shelton has directed “New Girl” episodes as well as lovely indies “Touchy Feely” and “Your Sister’s Sister.” “Laggies” is very much in that realm.
At last arrives slick revenge flick “John Wick,” starring Keanu Reeves as an ex-hitman who, yes, comes out of retirement for one last job. Critics are surprisingly over-the-moon for this film, which premiered at Fantastic Fest earlier in the Fall. It should do impressive business this weekend alongside horror film “Ouija.”