2. Hard to Be a God (Dir. Aleksei German)
Aleksei German's staggering, singular film, his sixth and last, premiered at the Rome International Film Festival in 2013, several months after the Russian director's death. Now another year has elapsed, and it has finally secured distribution and the promise of an early-winter theatrical release. Hard to Be a God tells the story of Don Rumata (Leonid Yarmolnik), a scientist from the near future on a fact-finding expedition to another planet -- one that resembles Earth as it was 800 years ago, at the cusp of the Renaissance. A genius among barbarians, Rumata is doomed to endure the savagery of the Middle Ages. But his pain is our pleasure.
3. Blackhat (Dir. Michael Mann)
Michael Mann returns this January with his first feature since 2009's poorly received gangland caper Public Enemies. Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth as Nicholas Hathaway, a jailed "blackhat" hacker offered a reprieve in exchange for his help against a notorious cyber criminal. That's a rather ludicrous premise for a thriller, perhaps, but the main attraction of a Mann film has always been aesthetic: The film's announcement trailer offered a glimpse of the spectacular digital vocabulary he began to develop with Collateral and mastered with Miami Vice, and we eagerly await a better view.