Film Reviews

10 Highly Anticipated Films of 2014

As awards season draws nearer and best-of-the-year lists keep rolling in, there's only one thing left to do: Get excited about what comes next. Here are 10 films you won't want to miss in 2014.

Adieu au language (Dir. Jean-Luc Godard): Jean-Luc Godard, former master of the French nouvelle vague, proved with 2010's extraordinary Film Socialisme that he remains among the most accomplished filmmakers working. His latest effort, the 3D experiment Adieu au language (Goodbye to Language), looks no less ambitious or exciting, as the three-minute trailer released over the summer quite compellingly suggests.

Under the Skin (Dir. Jonathan Glazer): The best film at 2013's Toronto International Film Festival by a wide margin, British director Jonathan Glazer's sublime science-fiction drama Under the Skin is a genuine revelation, one of the most original movies in years. Glazer found acclaim with his first two features, Birth and Sexy Beast, but Under the Skin finds him graduating to the level of mastery. We may finally have an heir to Kubrick.

Only Lovers Left Alive (Dir. Jim Jarmusch): You might not expect Jim Jarmusch, poet laureate of the American indie, to have much interest in the apparently never-ending vampire trend — it's difficult to imagine Twilight for the Tom Waits set. And yet for a lifelong hipster, the bloodsucking undead have one obvious appeal: They've quite literally seen, heard, and read it all before you. It's in this sardonic spirit of cool that Jarmusch offers his take on a tired genre, and the results are a delight.

Pompeii (Dir. Paul W.S. Anderson): The modern Hollywood blockbuster, if this summer's slate is anything to go by, seems to be in rather dire condition — turgid, loud, and overblown, it's getting to the point that you can't enter a multiplex without earplugs. Paul W.S. Anderson may offer the antidote: His adventure films carry all the charge desired of extravagant spectacle but without any of the attendant headaches. Pompeii, his forthcoming historical epic, promises to double down on the streamlined jocularity of his best film to date, The Three Musketeers.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Dir. Wes Anderson): There aren't many filmmakers today who can make the première of a trailer feel like an event unto itself, but then there aren't many filmmakers working today as widely and intensely beloved as Wes Anderson. And anyway, a certain fervor seems warranted: The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in 1920s Europe, was shot on three different formats and in three different aspect ratios, and stars Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Owen Wilson, and Tilda Swinton — and that's just a partial list. The world isn't ready for this much twee.

Why Don't You Play In Hell? (Dir. Sion Sono): Japanese filmmaker and punkish enfant terrible Sion Sono has never had much success in the United States. Well, given that his most lauded international hit, 2008's delirious Love Exposure, clocks in at a hair under four hours, perhaps that's understandable. Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Sono's latest, barely cracks 120 minutes, and it played to such enthusiastic response at this year's Toronto International Film Festival — where it won the Audience Award in the Midnight Madness sidebar — that popular success may be in its future after all. We'll see later this year, when Drafthouse Films puts it into limited theatrical release, and the world gets a much-needed dose of Sono-time.

The Double (Dir. Richard Ayoade): Richard Ayoade remains best-known, even across the United States, for his role on the British TV series The IT Crowd. For all his talent as a comic actor, it's his work as a writer and director that makes him a figure worth venerating. Submarine, his Rushmore-like debut, showed considerable promise, but it hardly prepared me for the calibre of his follow-up. The Double is a remarkable maturation: an audacious, hugely original comedy made in the mold of Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Orson Welles' The Trial — brazen aspirations for such a young director, certainly, but ones Ayoade somehow manages to see through.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Dir. Bryan Singer): The only thing more disappointing than Matthew Vaughn's half-baked franchise reboot and prequel X-Men: First Class was, of course, Brett Ratner's nonsensical X-Men: The Last Stand, so you may be right to regard a combined sequel to both of these films with skepticism. What's encouraging is that, in place of Vaughn and Ratner, X-Men: Days of Future Past is being helmed by Bryan Singer, director of one of the best superhero movies to date with X2. This may just be the sequel that restores the ailing franchise to its former glory.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Matt Reeves): When Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrived to near-universal acclaim in 2011, everybody was surprised — even its producers, I suspect, who had quietly stranded the film in a typically hopeless August release window as if anticipating a bomb. But Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a pedigree that promises even greater success: It's directed by Matt Reeves, co-writer of James Gray's incredible The Yards and auteur behind Cloverfield and Let Me In; it's written by Scott Z. Burns, long-time collaborator of Steven Soderbergh and the scripter of Contagion and Side Effects; and it stars Gary Oldman, who anybody on Earth will tell you is an improvement over James Franco.

Beware the Night (Dir. Scott Derrickson): Scott Derrickson may be the most consistently undervalued director working in Hollywood today. He made a legitimately good direct-to-video horror sequel with Hellraiser: Inferno. He remade Day the Earth Stood Still and didn't botch it. He even made exorcism movies cool again with The Exorcism of Emily Rose. And last year he delivered one of the most sophisticated and satisfying horror films in recent memory with Sinister, which as far as I'm concerned makes whatever he's working on next a must-see. In this case it's Beware the Night, a crime thriller starring Eric Bana. Time to get excited.