Hard to believe we’re already half-way through 2013. What’s even more surprising is the number of quality films from the first half of the year that flew under the radar. Want some quirky horror? Check out John Dies at the End and 100 Bloody Acres. Looking for the newest efforts from some up-and-coming writer-directors? How about Zal Batmanglij’s The East or Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong? Perhaps historical dramas like No, Lore and Kon-Tiki are more your style. Whatever your interest, 2013 surely has a film for you, you just might have missed it. Hit the jump for 15 movies from 2013 that deserve another look.
You might know writer-director Don Coscarelli from any one of his cult films – the Phantasm series, Beast Master, or Bubba Ho-Tep – but if you’re not, you might as well get familiar with his latest effort. Featuring Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown and Doug Jones, John Dies at the End stars Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes in a story about a street drug called Soy Sauce that leads to an other-worldly invasion. Can two college dropouts defy the odds and prevent the apocalypse? No, not they cannot.
Check out Scott’s review of the film here and watch the trailer for John Dies at the End below:
Here’s the synopsis for John Dies at the End:
It’s a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. On the street they call it Soy Sauce, and users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can’t.
This international production focuses on characters not often explored on the big screen. Centering on the children of high-ranking Nazi officials who disappear as the Allies sweep across Germany after World War II, Lore tells the story of the five siblings who re-evaluate their family’s beliefs while on the run, finding protection in a young Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camps.
Watch the trailer for Lore below:
Here’s the synopsis for Lore:
As the Allies sweep across Germany, Lore leads her siblings on a journey that exposes them to the truth of their parents’ beliefs. An encounter with a mysterious refugee forces Lore to rely on a person she has always been taught to hate.
Gael García Bernal stars in this historical drama about the revolutionary ad campaign that inspired a population to defeat military dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum. With social media influencing political movements and giving a voice to the oppressed now more than ever, the story of No remains just as relevant today.
Here’s the trailer for No:
Here’s the synopsis for No:
When Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet calls for a referendum to decide his permanence in power, the opposition persuades a young advertising executive to head its campaign. With limited resources and under scrutiny, he conceives a plan to win the election.
Fans of Chan-wook Park had a ten-year wait after Oldboy to see the director’s newest spin on disturbing family values. Stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode turned in nuanced performances in the moody and macabre picture, but it was all for naught as Stoker was tragically under-seen despite an international release. You can remedy that fact by checking the film out on Blu-ray now.
Read up on Matt’s review of Stoker here and watch the trailer below:
Here’s the official synopsis for Stoker:
After India’s (Wasikowska’s) father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie (Goode), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evelyn (Kidman). Soon after his arrival, she comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives, but instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
For fans of animated fare and Studio Ghibli properties, this Goro Miyazaki-directed film did well overseas but went mostly unremarked here in the states. The story follows a group of teens living in Yokohama in 1964 who attempt to save their school’s clubhouse from the wrecking ball in preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.
Check out the English trailer for From Up on Poppy Hill here:
Here’s the office synopsis for From Up on Poppy Hill:
The setting is Yokohama in 1963, and the filmmakers lovingly bring to life the bustling seaside town, with its misty harbor, sun-drenched gardens, shops and markets, and some of the most mouthwatering Japanese home-cooking set to film. The story centers on an innocent romance beginning to bud between Umi and Shun, two high school kids caught up in the changing times. Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the 1964 Olympics – and the mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the young generation struggles to throw off the shackles of a troubled past. While the children work together to save a dilapidated Meiji era club house from demolition, their tentative relationship begins to blossom. But – in an unexpected twist that parallels what the country itself is facing – a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart.
Writer-director Sally Potter brings to the screen the story of two teenage girls growing up in London during the 1960s with the Cuban Missile Crisis looming on the horizon. Enjoyed more by movie critics than mainstream audiences, the real highlight of this film was Elle Fanning’s performance as Ginger in this coming-of-age tale.
Watch the trailer for Ginger & Rosa below:
Here’s the synopsis for Ginger & Rosa:
London, 1962. Two teenage girls – Ginger and Rosa — are inseparable; they play truant together, discuss religion, politics and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ frustrated domesticity. But, as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered – by the clash of desire and the determination to survive.
Chris O’Dowd’s career has been on an upward swing since 2011’s Bridesmaids, landing roles in such upcoming films as Cuban Fury and Thor: The Dark World. One of his most talked-about roles comes from The Sapphires where his character discovers four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls in a late 1960s singing group. During a time of civil unrest both home and abroad, the group is billed as “Australia’s answer to The Supremes” and pays a visit to Vietnam to sing for U.S. troops stationed there. This uplifting tale is based on a true story, as all the best ones seem to be.
Watch the trailer for The Sapphires below:
Here’s the official synopsis for The Sapphires:
Gail, Cynthia, Julie and Kay are sexy, black, young and talented and they’ve never set foot outside Australia. Until, in the chaos of 1968, they’re plucked from the obscurity of a remote Aboriginal mission, branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, and grasping the chance of a lifetime, dropped into the jungles of Vietnam to entertain the troops.
If you made it through Dupieux’s Rubber and wanted more, Wrong is the film for you. Every bit as zany as a film about a homicidal truck tire, this follow-up film centers on Dolph (Jack Plotnick), a man in search of his missing best-friend, his dog, Paul. During his quest, he meets a variety of oddball characters – a pizza-delivering nymphomaniac, a jogging-addict neighbor, an opportunistic French-Mexican gardener, and an off-kilter pet detective – and risks losing his mind along the way. This one will live on only with a “cult” following.
Here’s the wacky trailer for Wrong:
Here’s the synopsis for Wrong:
Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) awakens one morning to find he has lost the sole love of his life—his dog, Paul. Desperate to reunite with his best friend and to set things right, Dolph embarks on a journey which spirals into the realm of the absurd. On his quest, he drastically alters the lives of several severely bizarro characters, including a promiscuous pizza delivery girl (Alexis Dziena), a mentally unstable, jogging-addicted neighbor, an opportunistic French-Mexican gardener, an eccentric pet detective (Steve Little) and most mysterious of all, an enigmatic pony-tailed guru, Master Chang (William Fichtner) who imparts his teachings to Dolph on how to metaphysically reconnect with his pet. From fearless cinematic surrealist Quentin Dupieux, the director behind the head-exploding Rubber, Wrong is a wholly original and hilariously hallucinatory universe all its own.
Some viewers may still be scratching their heads over Shane Carruth’s 2004 time-travel film, Primer, but will find his sophomore effort more accessible. It’s got shades of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Danny Boyle’s recent film Trance (another under-seen film of 2013), but leaves its more subtle elements widely open to audience interpretation. You can find metaphors for choice vs. destiny, star-crossed romance, environmental destruction vs stewardship and more that I haven’t been able to fully process just yet. You can check Upstream Color out on Netflix now.
Read Matt’s review here and check out the cryptic trailer for Upstream Color below:
Here’s the synopsis for Upstream Color:
A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.
Real-life triumphs of mortal humans over the elements of nature and shortsightedness of their fellow man continue to be my favorite, if incredibly specific, genre. The fates aligned this year with the story of “legendary explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300 miles crossing of the Pacific on a balsa wood raft in 1947, in an effort prove it was possible for South Americans to settle in Polynesia in pre-Columbian times.” Kon-Tiki earned itself an Oscar nomination and did quite well overseas, but remains under-appreciated by domestic audiences.
Here’s the trailer for Kon-Tiki:
Here’s the synopsis for Kon-Tiki:
In 1947, the world is gripped with excitement as the young Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl embarks on an astonishing expedition – a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean on the Kon-Tiki raft. From his days living in the Marquesas with his wife Liv, Thor suspected that the South Sea Islands had been settled by ancient South Americans from thousands of miles to the east. Despite his inability to swim and fear of water, Thor decides to prove his theory by sailing the legendary voyage himself. After replicating the design of an ancient raft in balsa wood, Thor and five fellow adventurers set sail from Peru. Their only modern equipment is a radio, and they take a parrot along for company. A natural leader, Thor uses the stars and the ocean’s current to navigate the raft. After three dangerous months on the open sea, encountering raging storms, sharks, and all the dangers the Ocean can muster, the exhausted crew sight Polynesia and make a triumphant landing. Having sacrificed everything for his mission, even his marriage, the success of the Kon-Tiki expedition proves bittersweet for Thor.
Writer-director Ariel Vroman’s portrait of Richard Kuklinski, a notorious contract killer successfully masquerading as a mild-mannered family man, features Michael Shannon in the title role and an almost unrecognizable Chris Evans as a rival hitman. While it may not be destined to become a classic, The Iceman is one to watch for Shannon’s performance alone.
Check out the trailer for The Iceman after reading Matt’s review here:
Here’s the synopsis for The Iceman:
The Iceman is the true story of Richard Kuklinski: loving husband, devoted father, ruthless killer. He is believed to have killed more than 250 people between 1954 and 1985.
While finding out your father is a ruthless serial killer is a surefire way to screw a child up, so is being caught up in a custody battle between parents. Okay, so the degrees of dysfunction differ quite a bit in those two examples, but directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s contemporary adaptation of the 1897 Henry James novel does a fine job at navigating the treacherous post-divorce terrain. Pleasing to audiences and critics alike, What Maisie Knew is a rare film that hits on all levels of writing, acting and directing.
Watch the trailer for What Maisie Knew below:
Here’s the synopsis for What Maisie Knew:
Based on the Henry James novella, the story frames on 7-year-old Maisie, caught in a custody battle between her mother – a rock and roll icon – and her father. What Maisie Knew is an evocative portrayal of the chaos of adult life seen entirely from a child’s point of view.
If Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling aren’t on your radar yet, take a look at their previous effort, Sound of My Voice, and then move to The East. The follow-up film centers on an operation to infiltrate an anarchist group that challenges the operative’s priorities the deeper she gets in. This political thriller sports an impressive cast with Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard and Marling herself, but should be watched before Batmanglij and Marling take off.
Read up on Matt’s review of The East here and watch the trailer below:
Here’s the official synopsis for The East:
THE EAST, a suspenseful and provocative espionage thriller from acclaimed writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling, stars Marling as former FBI agent Sarah Moss. Moss is starting a new career at Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence firm that ruthlessly protects the interests of its A-list corporate clientele. Handpicked for a plum assignment by the company’s head honcho, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), Sarah goes deep undercover to infiltrate The East, an elusive anarchist collective seeking revenge against major corporations guilty of covering up criminal activity. Determined, highly-trained and resourceful, Sarah soon ingratiates herself with the group, overcoming their initial suspicions and joining them on their next action or “jam.” But living closely with the intensely committed members of The East, Sarah finds herself torn between her two worlds as she starts to connect with anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) and the rest of the collective, and awakens to the moral contradictions of her personal life.
Nothing says summer fun like a group of boys building their own house out in the woods, in which they live away from their parents under their own set of rules. Called a mash-up of Superbad and Stand by Me, it’s a deftly-handled picture that is sweetly funny and honest in its coming-of-age sentimentality. You’ve also got the comedic sensibilities of Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally to enjoy. This is a definite must-watch.
Watch The Kings of Summer trailer below:
Here’s the official synopsis of The Kings of Summer:
Premiering to rave reviews at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a unique coming-of-age comedy about three teenage friends – Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric and unpredictable Biaggio (Moises Arias) – who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Free from their parents’ rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family – whether it is the one you’re born into or the one you create – is something you can’t run away from.
Let’s wrap up this marathon of missed movies with a “so low on your radar it might as well be a Stealth Bomber” of a horror movie. This one’s for fans of Tucker and Dale vs Evil and comes recommended from our own horror guru, Haleigh Foutch. Though its an Australian production, it speaks to good old-fashioned American ingenuity, especially in times of economic hardship. Beware the owners of “blood and bone” fertilizer companies, especially those who own 100 bloody acres.
Here’s the trailer:
Here’s the synopsis for 100 Bloody Acres:
Reg and Lindsay run an organic fertiliser business. They need a fresh supply of their “secret ingredient” to process through the meat grinder. Reg comes across two guys and a girl with a broken-down vehicle on their way to a music festival.