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Fall 2014 Preview: 20 Best Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on August 25, 2014 

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With the summer cooling down, we’re entering perhaps the best time of year for fans of cinema with a variety festivals gearing up, some of which will hold premieres of our most-anticipated falls features. As we do each year, we’ve set out to provide a comprehensive preview of the films that should be on your radar, and first we’ll take a look at quality selections we can attest to. Ranging from a handful of premieres last fall to acclaimed debuts at Sundance, Cannes, and more, we’ve rounded up 20 titles that will arrive from September to December (in the U.S.) that are all well worth seeking out.

As a note, these didn’t make the cut but you can see our reviews at the links: No No: A Dockumentary (Sept. 5th), Kelly & Cal (Sept. 5th), The Skeleton Twins (Sept. 12th)Honeymoon (Sept. 12th), The Zero Theorem (Sept. 19th), Harmontown (Oct. 3rd), Camp X-Ray (Oct. 17th), Young Ones (Oct. 17th), Housebound (Oct. 17th), Laggies (Oct. 24th), Horns (Oct. 31st), Open Windows (Nov. 7th), The Homesman (Nov. 14th), and R100 (Dec. 12th).

Check out the 20 best fall 2014 films we’ve already seen below in chronological order, including links to complete reviews, and return for two more preview features this week:

God Help the Girl (Stuart Murdoch; Sept. 5th)

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The directorial debut of Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch has been a long time coming and it’s well worth the wait. Initially conceived a decade ago, in 2009 he released an album of the same name which would be the foundation for the film that premiere at this year’s Sundance. While our review was mixed, I found the story following a youthful band to be brimming with sincere energy and one that would make a great pairing with this year’s We Are the Best! (or even Not Fade Away, which was severely overlooked a few years back). – Jordan R.

Memphis (Tim Sutton; Sept. 5th)

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Deep within the tumultuous, creative mind of musician Willis Earl Beal (played by the real-life musician of the same name) is where writer/director Tim Sutton‘s Memphis takes place. When we first meet Willis, he’s talking big and bad at the host of a local Memphis talk show. He describes his work as “sorcery,” a kind of trickery of the human soul. What follows is Willis’ fight against normalcy. Though it’s clear the man has found some success in the music business, he spends his days wandering around Memphis on his own, mumbling to himself and those around him. He’s got a mostly ex-lover and child he barely sees and a fleeting wish to rediscover his faith. In one poignant scene, Willis, dressed in a sloppily put-together suit, attempts to address an excited congregation only to go speechless. – Dan M. (full review)

Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang; Sept. 12th)

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A woman sits at the edge of a bed, brushing her hair while a young boy and girl are positioned to her side, sleeping soundly. The camera, stationary, can capture nothing but the shapes of three bodies, segments of a comforter, and a wall whose minimal qualities of design would give the stronger impression of a small film set than actual room. This sequence proceeds for a few minutes; no dialogue is spoken and none of these people are identified, yet one can understand, on an almost-instinctual level, that it’s a mother figure, either worn down by her children or sitting in blissful relaxation. Not that we need read too greatly into this bare situation: an explication of circumstance is not necessary, nor is the opportunity for an explication of circumstance necessarily provided. Taken both in its entirety and viewed within proper context, the image is as much a proposition as an introduction, demanding our acclimation to a peculiar tenor of temporal cinematic geography — no room for personal compromise included. – Nick N. (full review)

The Guest (Adam Wingard; Sept. 17th)

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How blue can human eyes get? The question is answered succinctly in Adam Wingard‘s The Guest, a comfortably diverting riff on most all of the action/thriller elements from the ’80s that made performers like Kurt Russell bigger than life. The Guest opens with a knock on the door. The woman answering the door is Laura (Sheila Kelley), the mother of Caleb, who was killed in Afghanistan. The man at the door is David (Dan Stevens), a too-handsome-to-be-real veteran with a message to deliver to Caleb’s family. Overwhelmed with gratitude by David’s act, Laura invites him into her home and makes him feel like part of the family, which also includes her husband Spencer (Leland Orser), daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) and young son Luke (Brendan Meyer). Before long, David is the man of the house, solving any and all problems with a devil-may-care smile and some extremely violent, extremely entertaining fighting techniques. – Dan M. (full review)

Tracks (John Curran; Sept. 19th)

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A stunningly beautiful film, director John Curran‘s Tracks traces the physical and psychological 1,700-mile trek of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) from the central Australian town of Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. As masterfully shot by Mandy Walker, the film has images that, at times, are lucid, while its structure and Curran’s direction takes little risks. Inspired by an award-winning 1980 account (expanded from a National Geographic article published in 1979), Tracks allows us to share a journey that shaped Robyn, an awkward young woman who survived in Alice Springs doing odd jobs in exchange for a camel. – John F. (full review)

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