By Kristen Lopez | The Playlist February 3, 2014 at 12:19PM
Synopsis: A young baker named Omar (Adam Bakri) becomes a freedom fighter dodging the police, all while struggling to juggle a forbidden romance and questioning the loyalties of his friends.
What You Need to Know: Director Hany Abu-Assad and his film, “Omar,” celebrated a great 2013 and look to have an even better 2014. After winning a Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Omar” shocked Oscar prognosticators when it made the shortlist for Best Foreign Film, trumping presumed sure things like “Gloria,” “Wadjda” and “The Past.” Its Oscar nomination marks the second time a Palestinian film has been nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, both times with Abu-Assad at the helm (“Paradise Now” was nominated 2006). With two Oscar nominations under his belt, Hollywood is calling for Abu-Assad, with reports in September saying the director was preparing a remake of “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” Whether the film takes home the statue on Oscar night is anyone’s guess, but two previous nominations show Abu-Assad is bound for further acclaim in the future, so be sure to catch up with him now.
Release Date: February 21st in limited release
“The Wind Rises”
Synopsis: Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dreams of being an airplane engineer, but can’t due to his nearsightedness. The film follows his life surviving earthquakes, the Great Depression, and tuberculosis as Jiro struggles to achieve his dream.
What You Need to Know: “The Wind Rises” created waves when its director Hayao Miyazaki revealed it would be his final film before retiring. Oliver Lyttelton saw the movie during its run at the Venice Film Festival, giving it an “A-” for its grounded storyline packed with difficult themes. Lyttelton goes on to call it “[Miyazaki’s] most personal film.” It recently received an Oscar nomination in the Best Animated Feature category, and our Oscar prediction article for the category proclaimed this and “Frozen” as the two movies that will likely duke it out for the win. For the Walt Disney Studios, they win regardless, as both this and “Frozen” are released under the House of Mouse banner, but “The Wind Rises” is a stellar achievement in animation worth experiencing.
Release Date: February 21st in limited release; expands February 28th
Synopsis: An air marshal (Liam Neeson) on a transatlantic flight is threatened, via text message, that a murderer will kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless the government transfers $150 million into an offshore bank account.
What You Need to Know: A better title for Neeson’s third collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra would be “Taken on a Plane.” Collet-Serra and Neeson clearly enjoy working with, having previously teamed on 2011’s “Unknown” and are set to reteam for a film called “Run All Night.” The first trailer feels like a parody of Neeson’s past films, and the emphasis on threats via text are laughable. If anything, “Non-Stop” could be a “so bad, it’s good” type of film, but it’s doubtful Collet-Serra and Neeson see it that way. Neeson’s movies continue to be crafted in a cookie-cutter Mad-Libs style, and while “Non-Stop” injects some testosterone into a month light on action, the actor is worthy of better. But admit it, you kinda want to see this anyway.
Release Date: February 28th