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Five Hidden Movie Gems of 2014
Every year, movies provide audiences with eye popping explosions, superheroes who can’t die, and CGI that pops off the screen and leaves some drooling at the superficial eye candy. The loud blockbusters stand in the spotlight and shriek down the microphone, not allowing the quieter, smaller movies to say their piece. However, 2014 will change that, as smaller budget films are given chances at festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca, and Cannes. Some audiences haven’t discovered that you can find brilliant, original stories with interesting characters without explosions every five minutes or never-ending car chases. Here are five hidden movie gems to look out for this year:
1. Open Grave
Filmed in Hungary with a budget of $10 million, the film kicks off when a man wakes up in a pit of dead bodies with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Fleeing the scene, he breaks into a nearby house and is met at gunpoint by a group of terrified strangers, all suffering from memory loss. Suspicion gives way to violence as the group starts to piece together clues about their identities, but when they uncover a threat that’s more vicious -and hungry – than each other, they are forced to figure out what brought them all together – before it’s too late.
Open Grave at its core is a character study, and questions, do we really know who we are? The movie also blends psychological thriller with horror elements, and swings the pendulum between the two genres seamlessly. Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, Open Grave stars District 9 lead Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong) and Welsh actress Erin Richards.
Open Grave opened at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013 and will make its debut in UK/US in January. For horror, or zombie aficionados, this hidden gem is a must see.
Set in Toronto, Enemy (based on the 2002 novel The Double by Jose Saramagos) paints the city with dream-like orange colour as the surrealist picture introduces us to Adam Bell, a glum, dishevelled history professor, who seems disinterested in even his beautiful girlfriend Mary. Watching a movie on the recommendation of a colleague, Adam spots his double; a bit-part actor named Anthony Clair, and decides to track him down. The identical men meet and their lives become bizarrely and irrevocably intertwined.
Director Dennis Villeneuve (Prisoners) uses subtle symbolism that may not seem clear at first and may require multiple viewings, but this film, for David Lynch fans, is as close at its going to get to the master surrealist. Enemy is a chilling tension builder that broods until its terrifying final act. The central performance by Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) is worth a mention as he plays two characters who are identical physically; but he gives both characters their own posture and personality to easily identify between the two without even having to open his mouth. Other stars include: Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Bastards), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet) and Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method).
Bagging 10 nominations for this year’s Canadian Screen Awards, and holding an 89% rotten tomato score, this gem will leave you wanting to run out of the theatre and buy another ticket to view it again, just to figure out its labyrinth plotline. Enemy releases on 14th of March.
Shot entirely in the harsh, wintry woods of rural Quebec, Bruce a down-on-his-luck snowplough operator, accidentally kills a man during a drunken night joyride. Stricken with panic, he hides the body and takes it to the deep wilderness in the hope of outrunning both the authorities and his own conscience. But as both begin to close in, Bruce falls apart mentally and morally and mysteries unravel to reveal who he was before the accident, the truth behind his victim, and the circumstances that brought them together in a single moment.
What starts as a tense thriller eventually evolves into a darkly humorous and smart character study; a Coen brothers-esque comedy of errors by way of a Jack Londonian survival story. First time director Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais won best new native director at Tribeca Film festival for Whitewash, but don’t disregard the lead actor though. Turning out a three dimensional performance, Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) mixes drama with dark comedy, which always works a treat when executed well.
Whitewash opens 19th of April so if you’re up for some frostbite dark comedy, check out this hidden gem.
Filmed in Albuquerque, Frank is an offbeat comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon, who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
The character Frank interestingly is based on the late British comedian Chris Sievey’s iconic comedy character Frank Sidebottom. Like Whitewash, Frank mixes comedy with drama, and takes some unexpected turns along the way which unfortunately might put some watchers off.
Director Leonard Abrahamson (What Richard Did) establishes Frank as a punk spirited movie that has already won over Sundance 2014 critics. The movie also holds a fine array of acting talent such as Michael Fassbender (Shame), Domhnall Gleeson (About Time), and Maggie Gyllenhal (The Dark Knight).
Opening sometime in 2014, Frank could be one of the most original films of the year.
5. Young Ones
Filmed in the Northern Cape desert, Young Ones places the audience in the not so distant future. A colossal draught has struck the United States, turning America into a desolate wasteland. While most flee the heavily affected areas, some survivors stay and hope that one day rain will come again and renew the land. The hardened, shotgun-toting Ernest Holm is one of these men. Resolute and stubborn, he protects his family – son Jerome and daughter Mary – and water wells from invading bandits, and survives by trekking supplies to irrigation workers channelling the remaining water to tributaries of money and political influence.
Writer/director Jack Paltrow (The Good Night) unfolds the gritty low sci-fi drama in three different chapters, each of which focusing on a different protagonist. Young Ones puts the adolescent protagonists through an unrelenting journey of an old Western-style yarn, with a hint of Greek tragedy forcing them to survive in a world struck with harsh violence. The cast includes Michael Shannon (Man of Steel), Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies), and Ellie Fanning (Super 8).
This stylish flick is an excellently performed, well constructed gem. Be sure to check it out when it’s released in theatres in late 2014.
Let me know in the comments section below what hidden gems you are looking forward to viewing this year.