Written By: Scott Davis
After all the blockbusters have shattered box-office records and obliterated our ear drums, attention will soon turn to some of the smaller movies coming out in the second half of 2014. While many, many independent films from the festival market are due to get their US distribution in the fall/winter seasons, sadly not all of them will find their way onto UK shores, at least in cinemas. Thankfully with such a plethora of great product soon to descend on cinemas, we pick ten films to watch out for in the arthouse cinemas in the second half of this year.
Release Date: July 11th
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater
The Fu: Unlike anything that has ever been made before, Boyhood has already been proclaimed an “astonishing achievement” by many critics across the pond. Director Linklater has always been one for challenging, thought-provoking films, particularly in the superb “Before…” trilogy, but the reaction to Boyhood has been stellar. Telling the story of Mason (Coltrane) through ages 5 to 18, Linklater cast the actor in 2002, and continuously returned to the film every couple of years to tell the next chapters over the next twelve years.
In a world that is being taken over once again by vacuous robot blockbusters, Boyhood could be the perfect remedy.
Release Date: July 25th
Director: David Gordon Green
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Tye Sheridan
The Fuss: After many, many duff vehicles over the last decade or so, this year sees Nicholas Cage returning to smaller movies with Joe, a redemptive story from director Green (Prince Avalanche, Pineapple Express). Similar in tone to last year’s Mud (which also starred Sheridan), Cage plays ex-con Joe who inadvertently becomes an unlikely role model for a juvenile 15-year-old local Gary (Sheridan). Critics in the US have raved about Cage’s performance, many stating that it is “one the best of his career”, as well as having a 73 Metacritic score.
It’s a brilliant piece of work, and one that deserves to been seen by as big an audience as possible.
Release Date: August 29th
Director: Gillian Robespierre
Starring: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman, David Cross, Richard Kind
The Fuss: One of the big breakouts from this year’s festival scene, Obvious Child has been getting the kind of rave reviews for both film and performances that were bestowed on similar strong-female-lead film Frances Ha last summer. The buzz on this film had been building many months before its US debut last weekend, and has duly been greeted with the same positivity. Slate plays Donna Stern, a twenty-something comedienne who unintentionally falls pregnant after a one-night stand. Faced with the prospect of whether to keep the baby or not, she begins a much-needed journey of discovery and direction. And while it may sound all very “Knocked Up”, Obvious Child has been described as a much more “honest” and “charming” film.
Release: August 29th
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat
The Fuss: After the head-turning announcement of Jesse Eisenberg’s casting as Lex Luthor, many fans were in uproar. But there were those who knew that despite people’s trepidations, Eisenberg was more than capable of delivering, particularly if you have seen his tremendous work in The Social Network and this year’s The Double. Add now Night Moves, the new eco-thriller from director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy & Lucy), for which Eisenberg is sad to be “sinister and vunrable virtually within the same breath”. Co-starring the always reliable Peter Sarsgaard and Dakota Fanning, herself slowly building up praise as an adult actress, Night Moves looks like a great little thriller, described by UK critic Robbie Colin as “mesmerically assured and tensile film-making”.
A Most Wanted Man
Release Date: September 5th
Director: Anton Corbijn
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Daniel Bruhl, Robin Wright, Willem Dafoe
The Fuss: Since the success of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, some of John Le Carre’s work are being mooted for the big-screen treatment. Strangely, it’s one of his later works (the book was released in 2008), that has found its way onto the screen first. A Most Wanted Man boasts a stellar cast, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles, and concerns a Chechen Muslim who immigrate to Hamburg illegally, and soon gets himself caught up in international espionages and the war on terror. It was met with good, if not stellar, praise at Sundance this year, but with a cast this good, and with Hoffman at the top of his gain, this one certainly has us excited.
Release Date: September 19th
Director: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Donald Faison, Jim Parsons
The Fuss: After his massive success with 2004’s Garden State, it seemed the world was Zach Braff’s oyster. But after many false starts Braff was struggling to find the right deal for his undoubted talents. Enter Kickstarter, which has helped Braff retain artistic control, and make Wish I Was Here. Co-written with his brother Adam, Wish I Was Here is described by Braff himself as a continuation of tone from Garden State, with Braff starring as plays Aiden Bloom, a struggling actor and father-of-two, who finds himself at a life crossroads, forcing him to re-evaluate his life and family. Reaction was mixed at Sundance last February, but with Braff’s fan-base and the long gap between films, Wish I Was Here looks like delivering the goods once again.
Release Date: October 3rd
Director: Jeff Baena
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines, Anna Kendrick
The Fuss: Everyone loves a good zombie film, and Life After Beth is one such deal. But while many will be quick to jump on the Shaun Of The Dead rip-off bandwagon, Life After Beth is a little different. Devastated by his girlfriend Beth’s (Plaza) sudden death, Zach (DeHaan) wishes he had been able to say how he felt to her before her passing. Suddenly, Beth rises from the dead, and the two reconnect and continue their love affair. That is until Beth starts eating other men. Described by Variety as “a charming, thoughtful and love-out-loud” film, Life After Beth has the potential to be a true breakout this autumn, and our taste-buds are tingling already.
Release Date: October 10th
Director: Lynn Shelton
Starring: Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Ellie Kemper, Gretchen Mol
The Fuss: Lynn Shelton has built up quite the reputation amongst the best independent filmmakers over the past few years, since her 2009 debut Humpday. Since then, she has produced some great films, expertly mixing comedy and drama through improvisation. Her latest effort, Laggies, is something of a departure for Shelton, as it’s the first time she has directed from someone else’s script, rather than her own. The film stars Keira Knightley as Megan, a stunted 28-year-old who, after being proposed to by her long-term boyfriend, she flees the scene to the local store, where she meets Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz), a rebellious teen who Megan finds a common ground. Greeted with lots of praise back at Sundance, Laggies sees strong performances from Knightley, Moretz and the ever-brilliant Sam Rockwell, and Shelton at the top of her game.
Release Date: November 14th
Director: Michael R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenearts, John Ortiz
The Fuss: Like A Most Wanted Man, The Drop has two very similar factors. Firstly, it’s an adaptation of work from a famed writer, in this case Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) who adapts from his own short story. And secondly, it features a final performance from an iconic actor of his generation, James Gandolfini, for which The Drop represents his final role. Co-starring with his is Tom Hardy, who stars as Bob, a local man who gets embroiled in a robbery gone awry and caught up in the subsequent investigation. Judging from the trailer, The Drop could well be a contender come awards season, particularly in the acting stakes, and will definitely be a dark horse come winter time.
Release Date: December 25th
Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller
The Fuss: Undoubtedly one of the most acclaimed films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Foxcatcher looks set to be a true Oscar contender come awards season. Director Miller, of Capote and Moneyball fame, won the Best Director Award at Cannes, and has seemingly added another string to his already hugely-impressive bow. Based on the true story of Mark Schultz (Tatum), an Olympic wrestler whose fiery relationships with his brother David (Ruffalo) and his sponsor John Du Pont (Carell) led to murder. While much as been made of the film itself (The Guardian calls it “a gripping film: horrible, scary and desperately sad”) it’s the performance of Carell, in a far darker role than we have ever seen him, that also has critics salivating.
Release Date: January 2nd, 2015
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis
The Fuss: While it may not be officially released until the New Year, Birdman has certainly got people talking. It’s gloriously nutty trailer, which was released in June, certainly has our tails in a spin, and if this is the first great film of 2015, then we will be very happy. Birdman stars Batman Michael Keaton as washed-up actor Riggan Thomson, who in his heyday played an iconic superhero (great casting eh?), who now in the later-days of his career, must wrestle with his ego and family troubles in his bid to recapture former glories on Broadway. A little bit of change of pace for director Inarritu after the likes of 21 Grams and Babel, but with another unique story coupled with a hugely impressive cast, Birdman could soar in 2015.