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The 30 Best 2014 Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on January 6, 2014 

With 2013 wrapped up last week thanks to the unveiling of our top 50 films of the year, it’s time to turn our heads to 2014. Before we let loose our rundown of most-anticipated films, we’re taking a look at the noteworthy titles we’ve seen at festivals that will finally see a release in 2014.  While the list below includes a handful of undistributed titles, we’re hopeful that they’ll pick up acquisition in the coming months and arrive in theaters by the year’s end.

The below thirty films are also only a portion of what we’ve seen; other notable (and not-so-notable) features include the Jude Law comedy Dom Hemingway, Jason Bateman‘s directorial debut Bad Words, Alexandre Aja‘s Horns, Ti West‘s The Sacrament, the crime drama Blood Ties, Atom Egoyan‘s Devil’s Knot, Eli Roth‘s The Green Inferno, Can a Song Save Your Life (from the director of Once), The F Word, the Jimi Hendrix biopic All is By My Side, Jimmy P., Adult World, The Pretty One, Afflicted and Trust Me. Note that the list doesn’t include Hayao Miyazaki‘s The Wind Rises, which would be near the top, but it technically was (briefly) released in 2013 for awards qualifications.  Check out the thirty films below and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments.

30. R100 (Hitoshi Matsumoto; TBD)

What do you get when you cross one of Japan’s most influential comedians, a premise similar toThe Game – but with a zany wild streak of subversive humor — and a whole lot of S&M? The answer is Hitoshi Matsumoto‘s R100, a film following the mild-mannered Takafumi (Nao Ohmori) as he descends into a world of painful pleasure, the likes of which he wasn’t prepared. Similar in tone to his previous film Scabbard Samurai, I fortunately didn’t have to worry about bridging the cultural divide for complete coherence like I did there. It’s not because this one was made with a Western voice or possessed a stronger story, however. No, there was little struggle to figure out what was going on because Matsumoto decided to purposely go as absurd as he possibly could. – Jared M. (full review)

29. A Field in England (Ben Wheatley; February 7th)

“A coward becomes a man” is, I suppose, the crux of Ben Wheatley’s newest thriller, A Field in England. We find Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) hiding in the bushes while mortars explode around him during battle, weeping and praying to God to keep him hidden now that his mission (finding an elusive old comrade) seems all but futile and far too dangerous. He runs, meets a few other deserters in a mid-17th-century English Civil War pitting the Parliamentarians against the Royalist monarchy, and moves forward towards a chance at prolonging his life while, along the way, martyring himself for personal failures. A scholar amongst blue-collar men, Whitehead’s chance to prove himself once more comes courtesy of a serendipitous stumbling upon the object of his search in an overgrown field. Chaos ensues. – Jared M. (full review)

28. Starred Up (David Mackenzie; August TBD)

In an opening sequence, as he’s arriving to adult prison, Eric (Jack O’Connell) is given a thorough inspection in a moment that clues us in to the kind of movie Starred Up will be: a no-holds barred, explicit exploration of prison culture. Directed by David Mackenzie (Mister Foe, Perfect Sense), Starred Up is a more extreme and, often, more exciting exploration of themes MacKenzie has previously tackled. Eric, a violent drifter of sorts, grows up without a proper parent, learning to fend for himself — and, in a later scene, we learn the exact consequences of this and how it got him to this present state. Eric, for the first time in his adult life, meets his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), a hardened criminal who encourages his son to play the game. A product of the “system,” he wants Eric to simply go along, keep his head down, and get out. Needless to say, it’s an irritation when his son starts making connections and plans. – John F. (full review)

27. Tracks (John Curran; May 23rd)

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)

26. Run & Jump (Steph Green; Jan. 24th)

While this past fall saw the release of Nebraska, a dramatic effort from Saturday Night Live‘s Will Forte, it wasn’t his first. Earlier in 2013, Tribeca Film Festival hosted the premiere of Run & Jump, which features the actor in a supporting role. As we said in our review, it’s a film that will grow on you, slowly and subtly absorbing you into its world. With an observant structure, we are the third wheel in a tested marriage, following an American therapist, Ted (Forte) who arrives to a Ireland to document the recovery of Conor (Edward Macliam), a family man whose suffered a stroke. ” – Jordan R.

25. Venus In Fur (Roman Polanski; June TBD)

Even in an advanced age and with a slightly reduced rate of output, Roman Polanski is still considered one of the most influential filmmakers alive and operating. His previous film, Carnage, was adapted from a piece of theater by scribe Yasmina Reza and is constrained to a single interior location; following suit with similar meta-theatrics, Venus in Fur is the second adapted play for Polanski, this time taking from playwright David Ives‘ tale about an actress auditioning for a dominatrix-inspired role. Turning this into what could have easily been titled Fifty Shades of Polanski, he examines the roles of sexuality between a man and a woman. – Raffi A. (full review)

24. Mistaken For Strangers (Tom Berninger; March 28th)

Emerging as one of indie rock’s most acclaimed acts in recent years, the Brooklyn-based band The National were the subject of a 2008 documentary titled A Skin, A Night. Directed byVincent Moon, the hour-long film took an aesthetically stark look at the formation of the previous year’s album Boxer. Two records and a great deal of success later, the band is now the subject of another documentary and one that couldn’t be any more different. – Jordan R. (full review)

23. Abuse of Weakness (Catherine Breillat; Awaiting Distribution)

The draw of Catherine Breillat‘s newest, autobiographical film, Abuse of Weakness (known as Abus de faiblesse in its native tongue), is ultimately to watch how someone so desperately in need can be preyed upon no matter their own intelligence, wealth, or stature. When tragedy strikes, unannounced, via a debilitating stroke, the fear of death and paralysis eventually leads to newfound tenacity and strength — but what no one who isn’t absolutely indebted to the help of others for even the most menial tasks (such as opening a door) can know is that the simple act of showing up may prove all-powerful. A friend with the rare quality of not tainting every kindness with a healthy dose of pity is everything. When that person is the only one taking the time to call and visit each day, you can’t really be blamed for doing whatever possible to repay the favor. – Jared M. (full review)

22. Visitors (Godfrey Reggio; Jan. 24th)

We can think of few better ways to ring in the New Year than experiencing a new film from Koyaanisqatsi director Godfrey Reggio. His first feature in over a decade, Visitors looks to have a smaller scale than some of his other work, shot completely in black and white. While our TIFF review was mixed, I look forward to seeing it myself on the big screen. – Jordan R.

21. Borgman (Alex van Warmerdam; June 6th)

The less you know about Borgman, the better. All that matters is that it’s Dutch, it was the most bizarre film to play in the main competition of Cannes this year and it’s coming out next year courtesy of Drafthouse Films. Oh, and it’s a devilishly good time for fans of black comedy shenanigans. If any of that sounds at all intriguing, then definitely seek this film out and you’ll be sure to be both bewildered and delighted. All that’s left to say is: Gotta go Borgman. – Raffi A. (full review)

See the top twenty 2014 films we’ve already seen >>

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