By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 21, 2014 at 1:47PM
30. "I Origins"
Cast: Michael Pitt, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Archie Panjabi, Cara Seymour
Synopsis: A molecular biologist makes a startling discovery that could change the world as we know it.
Why It's Worth Seeing: 2011's "Another Earth" wasn't an unqualified success, but it was a distinctive and ambitious indie sci-fi that had us keen to see what director Mike Cahill did next. The filmmaker was back at Sundance this year with his follow-up (again co-starring, though not co-written by, Brit Marling), and while it might have one of the worst titles in the history of the medium, there's enough to "I Origins" to keep us intrigued. The always undervalued Michael Pitt takes the lead role in a tale that promises to cover reincarnation, identity and love, and according to our Sundance review, it does pretty well at tackling these topics: Rodrigo Perez called it "a fascinating examination of belief, spirituality and otherworldliness through the skeptical lens of science," and said it "cements [Cahill] as the real deal." With any luck, this could be the thinking man's sci-fi antidote of the summer.
Release Date: July 18th
29. "The Fault In Our Stars"
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Mike Birbiglia, Willem Dafoe
Synopsis: Two cancer-suffering teens meet in a support group, bond over their favorite novel, and set out to find the book's reclusive author, falling in love in the process.
Why It's Worth Seeing: If you're over a certain age, "The Fault In Our Stars" probably doesn't mean all that much to you, but if you've recently been in your teens, you probably have a tear-stained copy somewhere. John Green's book is a well-reviewed best-seller to rank with "The Hunger Games," although it's free of any genre elements whatsoever. To some degree, the film (directed by "Stuck In Love" helmer Josh Boone) looks to be an old-fashioned weepie, but the material is closer to Cameron Crowe or "Terms Of Endearment" than "Love Story" or Nicholas Sparks, and Boone has mad some intriguingly off-beat casting, with teen heartthrobs Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort rubbing shoulders with the less likely figures of Laura Dern and Mike Birbiglia. It's always possible that the execution will turn out to be more mawkish than we hoped, but we've got our fingers crossed that this'll fit with the recent run of New Sincerity teen movies like "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" and "The Spectacular Now."
Release Date: June 6th
28. "Cold In July"
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepherd, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell
Synopsis: A man shoots someone who breaks into his house, only to be targeted for revenge by the dead man's father.
Why It's Worth Seeing: "Cold In July" (an adaptation of the novel by Joe R. Lansdale) might have a similar logline to David Cronenberg's "A History Of Violence," but the results are very different. Directed by rising star Jim Mickle, who made a real impression last year with horror remake "We Are What We Are," this is a stripped down '80s-style noir thriller, with an appropriately grizzled cast led by a post-"Dexter" Michel C. Hall. The film premiered at Sundance back in January, and picked up some strong notices, including our own, which pointed out that it "becomes a different kind of strange beast altogether" halfway through, continuing to evolve, saying that "Mickle has an acute understanding of chilling tone, mood and distressing atmosphere," and concluding it's "unusually absorbing and memorable." Could be a nice little lo-fi antidote of thrills this summer.
Release Date: May 23rd
27. "Palo Alto"
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer, Nat Wolff, James Franco, Olivia Crocicchia
Synopsis: In the titular Californian town, young April, spurned by Jack, is drawn to her handsome soccer coach, while Jack is led astray by best pal Fred's self-destructive behavior.
Why It's Worth Seeing: As if to prove that filmmaking can run in the genes, "Palo Alto" marks the directorial debut of the umpteenth Coppola to enter the family business, in this case 27-year-old Gia, granddaughter of Francis Ford and niece of Roman and Sofia. She enters the trade with this adaptation of James Franco's book of short stories (with Franco himself making an appearance), and she's certainly got the talent: it's arguably the best film made by a Coppola since the tonally comparable "Virgin Suicides." A woozy, lyrical picture with an ace soundtrack, our review from Venice dug it, for the most part, with the helmer doing "more to capture her characters' listlessness than you'd think possible for a first-timer." A strong cast, with Wolff and Roberts as particular stand-outs, help things along too. It'll be more under-the-radar than most in the season, but it's a definite cult classic in the making.
Release Date: May 9th
26. "Magic In The Moonlight"
Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Jacki Weaver, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater
Synopsis: An Englishman travels to the South of France to investigate a possible art con.
Why It's Worth Seeing: Woody Allen doesn't quite abide by a good/bad, even/odd structure like "Star Trek" or David Fincher movies, but it feels like it's pretty rare to see the veteran writer/director make two good ones in a row. So the downside of "Blue Jasmine" being his best in at least a decade is that it feels like the chances of the next one being worthwhile are relatively slim. That said, there's a first time to everything, and Allen's certainly got a potent central duo for his new one, which is apparently a fairly light farce, more "Scoop" than "September," as it were. Colin Firth and Emma Stone take the lead roles, and if there's a more irresistible duo for a French Riviera caper, then we can't think of one right now. Don't expect any Blanchett-style tour-de-forces, and hopefully it'll still prove a good time.
Release Date: July 25th
25. "Obvious Child"
Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, David Cross, Richard Kind
Synopsis: When she's dumped and fired, an aspiring stand-up comedian seeks out an abortion, even as she realizes that the father might be worth more than a one-night stand.
Why It's Worth Seeing: We're a few years on from the spate of pregnancy comedies, so it seems about time than we had an abortion comedy as a counterpoint, and it finally arrived at Sundance this year in the shape of "Obvious Child." The feature debut of writer/director Gillian Robespierre, it showcases former 'SNL'-er Jenny Slate in a much-deserved lead role, and won acclaim in Park City from a whole host of sources thanks to its fresh and honest taken on a brave subject matter and a familiar set-up. For instance, James Rocchi wrote for us in Sundance that, despite the low-budget, "it never feels rushed or slapdash," and called it "tough and funny and true and snappy... well-made and wickedly bold."
Release Date: June 6th
24. "The Double"
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Yasmin Paige, Noah Taylor
Synopsis: Mild-mannered office drone Simon James has his life take a dark turn when a doppelganger named James Simon joins his company, soon winning over colleagues and the girl that he secretly loves.
Why It’s Worth Seeing: "Submarine" might not have been perfect, but it marked the arrival of a hugely exciting new voice in the shape of actor-turned-director Richard Ayoade. His follow-up, the Dostoevsky-indebted "The Double," was worth the wait, an even more distinctive and odd film that's quite different from anything else you'll see in 2014. As Kevin said in Toronto, the film "matches its visual consistency with a narrative rhythm that is utterly engaging," with a gorgeous look from DP Erik Wilson, and a great score by Andrew Hewitt. It also has an "emotional and thematic pull that is surprisingly weighty for this sort of picture," while among a strong and eclectic cast also including Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor, star Jesse Eisenberg "gives two excellent performances... [allowing] him to find new notes to both his trademark on-screen personas." Some of the Playlist staff didn't find it quite as impressive, saying it didn't quite add up to the sum of its parts, but even they concede it's likable stuff.
Release Date: May 9th
23. "Land Ho!"
Cast: Paul Eenhorn, Earl Lynn Nelson
Synopsis: The elderly Colin is glum after the end of his marriage, so his former brother-in-law Mitch decides to surprise him with a trip to Iceland.
Why It's Worth Seeing; Aaron Katz's "Cold Weather" was one of the more winning indies of the last few years, so the news that he was teaming with Martha Stephens ("Passenger Pigeons") for a rather different tale, one about two elderly friends on a trip to Iceland together, was always intriguing. And when the film premiered in Sundance this year, it mostly lived up to expectations. Toplining "This Is Martin Bonner" breakout Eenhorn, it's a low-key drama reminiscent of David Gordon Green's recent "Prince Avalanche" (Gordon Green is an executive producer on the film), which is, as our Park City reviewer said, "played in a soft-note, minor key." We had a few reservations about the film, but we concluded that it's "easy to admire and appreciate in its quiet observations and tender form."
Release Date: July 11th
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Alex Van Warmerdam
Synopsis: A mysterious stranger ingratiates himself into the lives of a seemingly ordinary Dutch family.
Why It's Worth Seeing: One of the more pleasant surprises of last year's Cannes, "Borgman" has one of the more arresting openings of the year, as a wild-looking homeless man is tracked through the woods, and only gets more interesting from there. The film falls somewhere in between Michael Haneke, Ben Wheatley and Yorgos Lanthimos in its blackly funny investigation of what lies behind closed curtains in an ordinary family. Our Jessica Kiang raved about the film in Cannes, saying it contained "a playfulness that permeates even the film's darkest moments," and calling it "a blackly funny continuation of one of our most resilient storytelling traditions, Good vs. Evil." Other Playlisters who've seen the film had more reservations, but even so, it's certainly one of the most fascinating and distinctive films set to hit in the next few months.
Release Date: June 6th
21. "What If"
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver, Rafe Spall, Mackenzie Davis
Synopsis: A guy and a girl meet at a party and seem perfect for each other, but she has a boyfriend. Will they be able to just be friends?
Why It's Worth Seeing: It might have been given the most generic retitling possible, as is quite common in the genre for some reason, but otherwise "What If" (which screened at TIFF under its original name, "The F Word") is meant to be the rarest of beasts: a thoroughly decent contemporary rom-com. Written by Elan Mastai and directed by "Goon" helmer Michael Dowse, it's got an appealing young couple at the center in the shape of Radliffe and Kazan, and ringers like Driver, Spall and Davis in support. We really enjoyed the script when we read it a few years back, and the word from TIFF was that, even if it wasn't the weightiest film of the year, it was very appealing and funny. Let's hope it lives up to the buzz when it arrives in a few months.
Release Date: August 1st