3 below-the-radar films to catch this fall

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Posted: Oct 28, 2014 2:01 PM
3 below-the-radar films to catch this fall

By all means, see David Fincher's gloriously pulpy "Gone Girl," the elegant, surreal comedy "Birdman," the percussive and intelligent indie "Whiplash" and the staggering Edward Snowden documentary "Citizenfour." But before Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic "Interstellar" arrives and wipes everyone's brains, here are three films not to forget amid the increasingly crowded fall movie season:

FORCE MAJEURE: If ever there was a shot to make Alfred Hitchcock jealous, it's the one that makes "Force Majeure." A family, on vacation in the French Alps, lunches at a mountaintop restaurant. They and the other skiers, sunning on a deck, gaze at an avalanche deliberately set off high above. But as the rolling cloud of white comes closer and closer, the spectacle becomes a terrifying threat. How the family — a handsome couple with two young children — reacts, and the aftermath to that moment are the substance of "Force Majeure." Whereas Hitchcock might have set such a moment in an alpine thriller, Swedish director Ruben Ostlund situates it in a wry portrait of a shamed patriarch — a black comedy about a dissolving marriage on the (snowcapped) rocks. (In select theaters.)

LISTEN UP PHILIP: The narration starts with a kick, from the first frame, as Philip Friedman (Jason Schwartzman) trudges angrily past slower sidewalk pedestrians. He's an up-and-coming New York novelist whose story is narrated in a particularly bookish way (voiced by Eric Bogosian). Philip is an ambitious young author whose extreme self-obsession is repellent to all (including the viewer) except for his mentor, the accomplished Philip Roth-like writer Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce). The film is a curious combination of the close-up intimacy of Cassavetes, yet narrated from an arch, literary remove. Writer-director Alex Ross Perry has said he wanted to write a screenplay as might have been penned by Roth, who hovers over the film like Obi Wan Kenobi. But Perry excels in capturing the toxic, self-defeating egoism of a driven, talented jerk — and the damage he leaves behind. (In select theaters.)

PRIDE: So often has the inspirational crowd-pleaser been done without much inspiration or pleasure that one as good as "Pride" can now slip below the radar. Perhaps we've grown suspicious of rousing tales from rural Britain, where boys dance their hearts out and steel workers strip. In "Pride," British director Matthew Warchus tells the true tale of when the U.K. miners' strike of the mid-'80s brought together two very different groups. Long accustomed to the bullying of police and Margaret Thatcher's government the miners are suffering, some of London's gay community lent their support to the Welsh workers. The miners variously reacted to the embrace with suspicion, angry refusal and gratitude. But the small group, called Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners — led by activist Mark Ashton (a winning Ben Schnetzer) and whose ranks include a flamboyant, disco-dancing Dominic West — have an undaunted generosity. The movie, about fighting for causes not just one's own, is an ode to empathy. (In select theaters.)

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP