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2014 Fall Preview, Part 2
Studios release some surprisingly good lower-budget films this fall
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Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort star in the new film "Men, Women and Children."

Last week, I profiled some of the higher-profile movies set to hit theaters in the next few months, but that’s only part of the story.

Some would argue the mainstream releases aren’t even the best part of the story, since the fall season traditionally surprises us with some lower-budget, surprisingly good films. Here are some to seek out.

“Men, Women & Children”

Oct. 3: Jason Reitman directed this comedy/drama about a group of high school teenagers (Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort) and their parents (Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris and Adam Sandler) as they attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, communication, self-image and love lives. Reitman stumbled badly with his last film (“Labor Day”), but I’m hoping he returns to the form we saw in “Thank You for Smoking,” “Juno,” and “Up in the Air.”

“St. Vincent”

Oct. 10: A young boy whose parents just divorced finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic war veteran who lives next door. The scenario sounds like a sitcom premise, but word has it this simple canvas allows Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd the freedom to create a hilarious and moving story.

“Dear White People”

Oct. 17: This satire follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular African American-themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in post-racial America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world. Despite being built around controversial issues, this wry comedy has charmed everyone who has seen it so far.

“The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

Oct. 17: An old man who makes a living selling bamboo discovers a tiny princess in a bamboo stalk. As she grows up, unnaturally quickly, several men propose to her. When the Emperor of Japan proposes, things become dangerous for her and her adoptive family. Studio Ghibli’s latest is a fairy tale rendered with the pictorial mastery we expect from director Isao Takahata (“Grave of the Fireflies”) and his animation team.

“Laggies”

Oct. 24: Having spent her 20s comfortably inert, 28-year-old Megan (Keira Knightley) reaches a crisis when she finds herself squarely in adulthood with no career prospects, no particular motivation to pursue any and no one to relate to, including her high school boyfriend (Mark Webber). When he proposes, Megan panics and hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Annika’s world-weary single dad (Sam Rockwell). The premise is a groaner, but director Lynn Shelton (“My Effortless Brilliance,” “Your Sister’s Sister”) consistently brings a unique voice to what initially seems like mundane material.

“Horns”

Oct. 31: In the aftermath of his girlfriend’s mysterious death, a young man awakens to strange horns sprouting from his temples. Ram-like horns begin growing out of Daniel Radcliffe’s head. I want to see that.

“Whiplash”

Oct. 31: Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East Coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father (Paul Reiser), Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. This one is simple: right now I will watch anything with Teller and Simmons in it.

“Rosewater”

Nov. 7: “Rosewater” follows the Tehran-born Bahari (Gael García Bernal), a 42-year-old broadcast journalist with Canadian citizenship living in London. In June 2009, Bahari returned to Iran to interview Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who was the prime challenger to controversial incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Moussavi’s supporters rose up to protest Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration hours before the polls closed on election day, Bahari endured great personal risk by submitting camera footage of the unfolding street riots to the BBC. Bahari was soon arrested by Revolutionary Guard police, led by a man identifying himself only as “Rosewater,” who proceeded to torture and interrogate the journalist over the next 118 days. Jon Stewart (yes, the “Daily Show” guy) makes his directorial debut with a true story to which he is very close.

“The Theory of Everything”

Nov. 7: This biopic about the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his wife received mixed reviews overall when it played the Toronto International Film Festival, but everyone agrees its stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, give stunning performances. I dare you to watch this movie’s trailer and not tear up a little.

Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.

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