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May 2014

Die Another Day

James Bridges/20th Century Fox

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

At first glance, “The Fault in Our Stars” promises to give a tried-and-true daytime soap trope — star-crossed romance afflicted with terminal illness — the Y.A. novel treatment. One can almost picture a weepie making an auditorium full of Directioners tear up as if on cue. It’s difficult to fault someone uninitiated for making that assumption; yet at the same time, that would be underestimating the film.

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A Mountain to Climb

Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival

Beyond the Edge (2014)

In a world full of C.G.I. helicarriers, men walking away from explosions without batting an eyelash and women fighting crime with only their leather trousers holding their dignity together, an old-fashioned story of incredible human achievement is a radical invention. Since the tragic avalanche on Mount Everest a few months ago that took the lives of 12 Sherpas, "Beyond the Edge" is even more so its own kind of superhero movie.

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Evil Under the Sun

Jack English/Studiocanal

The Two Faces of January (2014)

Enough of author Patricia Highsmith's intuition for the dire fallibility of menfolk lingers in "The Two Faces of January" to give the film a certain residual bite, despite the tendency of writer and director Hossein Amini to desiccate most of the juice out of everything. No surprise that the scriptwriter of "Drive" is prone to flat and emphatic point-making — although Mr. Amini handles his script with kid gloves compared to Nicolas Winding Refn's self-annihilating injection of TNT — but at least this gives more unhindered screen time to Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, cutting a dash across early-1960s Athens and Crete in nice linen suits while coming to detest each other.

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Military Fatigue

Yaron Scharf/2014 Tribeca Film Festival

Zero Motivation (2014)

Tribeca Film Festival winner for Best Narrative Feature and Nora Ephron Prize, Talya Lavie’s “Zero Motivation” is an absurdist comedy that readily plays with fire. Revolving around a hapless female troop stationed on a desert artillery base in the south of Israel, the film wastes no time in targeting the Holy Grail among taboos: making light of the Holocaust.

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In the Valley of Blah

Maria Malin/Sony Pictures Classics

Third Person (2014)

Paul Haggis has again formulated an interwoven story with “Third Person,” this time finally resolving the contrivance inherent in the narrative device by having all interconnected vignettes conveniently taking place in one writer’s fertile imagination.

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Wanted and Desired

Guy Ferrandis/Mars Distribution

Venus in Fur (2014)

Roman Polanski revisits his fascination with the psychosexual realm in a big-screen adaptation of David Ives’s Off-Broadway two-character piece “Venus in Fur,” which itself is a meta-reimagining (think Charlie Kaufman) of Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella “Venus in Furs” that famously spawned the term masochism.

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