10. Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Robert Rodriguez; Aug. 29th)
Synopsis: The town’s most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more reviled inhabitants.
Why You Should See It: While this spot could’ve gone to a number of worthwhile titles above (Canopy, The Dog, What If, The Strange Little Cat, to name a few), the curiosity surrounding aSin City sequel might get the better of me. I’d argue Rodriguez hasn’t crafted a flat-out good film since 2005′s original feature, so my hope is that his return to this material will foster creativity. With some promising additions — including Josh Brolin, Eva Green, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt— we can hope this closes out the summer with a bang.
9. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh; Aug. 1st)
Synopsis: After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him.
Why You Should See It: Far bolder, darker, and altogether different than his debut The Guard, John Michael McDonagh‘s Calvary is an odd beast of a drama, but one that will certainly stick with you. According to us, “McDonagh’s writing talent is without question and the themes throughout are undeniably intriguing. This is a man who’s wrestling with the application of faith in the real world, the townspeople his petri dish.”
8. Starred Up (David Mackenzie; Aug. 29th)
Synopsis: A troubled and explosively violent teenager is transferred to adult prison where he finally meets his match – a man who also happens to be his father.
Why You Should See It: While he was seen in the 300 sidequel this spring, by the year’s end, one will know the name Jack O’Connell. He’s leading Angelina Jolie‘s go-for-broke Oscar bidUnbroken, but if one wants a preview of his talents a bit earlier, you can do no better than checking this prison drama. In our review from last fall’s TIFF, we said this is “masterfully controlled cinema that isn’t afraid to mix some intimate emotional moments amidst the crushing blows.”
7. Love is Strange (Ira Sachs; Aug. 22nd)
Synopsis: After Ben and George get married, George is fired from his teaching post, forcing them to stay with friends separately while they sell their place and look for cheaper housing — a situation that weighs heavily on all involved.
Why You Should See It: After the authentic drama Keep the Lights On, Ira Sachs returned to Sundance with Love is Strange, led by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. We were fans of it, saying in our review, “Well-acted and directed despite what may be ambiguity for the sake of ambiguity, Love is Strange is a rare thing of beauty: a New York City drama infused with the wit about the shrinking middle class, made by a New York City filmmaker.”
6. Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn; Aug. 1st)
Synopsis: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.
Why You Should See It: While this one will certainly outgross every film on this list combined (and then some), Guardians of the Galaxy‘s inevitable success is actually warranted. Marvel may not be able to craft a central plot that’s worth much yet, but James Gunn’s rollicking space adventure is a step in the right direction. Featuring the studio’s best ensemble yet (partly due to the fact there’s no superheroes involved here), we said, “Gunn demonstrates a heedless energy and zeal that’s reminiscent of Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi when they made the jump from bargain basement to blockbuster.”
5. The Congress (Ari Folman; Aug. 29th)
Synopsis: An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.
Why You Should See It: It’s not the knock-out drama Ari Folman last delivered in Waltz with Bashir, but The Congress is perhaps more ambitious. Yes, the acting from the supporting players can be unconvincing and some ideas are muddled, but it’s the sort of bold, one-of-a-kind work that I imagine will stick with me for some time. 15 months ago, our Cannes reviewproclaimed “Delightfully surreal and spectacular in its scope, The Congress is a strong testament to the originality and talent behind Folman’s vision of where cinema can take us in the years to come.”
4. The One I Love (Charlie McDowell; Aug. 22nd)
Synopsis: Struggling with a marriage on the brink of falling apart, a couple escapes for a weekend in pursuit of their better selves, only to discover an unusual dilemma that awaits them.
Why You Should See It: It’s difficult to discuss what makes The One I Love work so well, but rest assured that this is one of the most engaging American indies of 2014. We said, in our spoiler-free review from Sundance, “Independent film was built on the kind of small gem of original thinking that engineers the plot ofThe One I Love. As the initial question of communication gives way to a deeper questioning of how much we really know each other, McDowell’s picture goes to dark, introspective places without sacrificing the relatively light tone that works throughout.”
3. Jealousy (Philippe Garrel; Aug. 15th)
Synopsis: A theater actor is torn between the woman he lives with, and the woman he loves. But she cheats on him.
Why You Should See It: One of our top 50 films of last year is finally getting a U.S. theatrical release this month. We said, “Due to the constant influence May ’68 has on his work, Philippe Garrel’s films often concern a fruitless pursuit of something lost — and, with Jealousy, maybe the simplest human concept: happiness, the object of this typically talky trek,” adding that “the relaxed 77 minutes comes as not only a relief, but a reminder of the power found in simple expressiveness. The best way to say it is that Jealousy feels like a story told only through the very images it requires, the multiple perspectives drawing from Garrel’s own life as a father, lover, and child all made wholly clear.”
2. The Trip to Italy (Michael Winterbottom; Aug. 15th)
Synopsis: Two men, six meals in six different places on a road trip around Italy: Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and ending in Capri.
Why You Should See It: Proving more of the same isn’t a bad thing, The Trip to Italy premiered at Sundance with director Michael Winterbottom and stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydonback in tow.We said, in our Sundance review, “For fans of the first film, you’ll get your bevy of celebrity impressions from the two men, varying from great to purposely dreadful. There’s a particularly engaging bit on Bane’s voice in The Dark Knight Rises. Not unlike the first film, Winterbottom operates in the small details, fully aware of each performer’s strengths. Coogan excels like few others in dry, vain comedy, Brydon countering with large, outgoing comedy that’s sometimes broad, sometimes insightful.”
1. Frank (Lenny Abrahamson; Aug. 15th)
Synopsis: Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
Why You Should See It: An odd trip through the creative process, Lenny Abrahamson‘s Frankwill certainly be unlike any other feature arriving this year. Bursting with energy and an overarching sadness, thanks to a commanding performance by Michael Fassbender, I said, inmy Sundance review, “It’s not easy create something great in any medium and Frank shows us through all the punching, kicking, screaming, and even death, something beautiful can be formed in the end.”