In lieu of doing any actual reviews, it’s getting to that time of year where I’ll look forward to the coming attractions of the New Year. Just as a rule, the movies I include here are movies whose American wide release is actually IN 2014, even if they had a foreign or limited release this year. Also some of these only have tentative release dates this set year and may be pushed back to next year. So without further ado, here are the twenty one films I’m most looking forward to next year.
THE LEGO MOVIE (Feb. 7th) – If you had told me about this movie without showing me trailer, I would have told you that it was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard. Every time I see the trailer, though, I always somehow get this stupid grin on my face that just won’t go away. The premise behind it sounds like every goofy/serious narrative every kid used to make up when playing with our old Lego sets. That combined with the film’s stop motion-esque look and glut of licensed characters strike right at the heart of my childhood nostalgia. The directors of this also did the original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, so if anything it’ll be at least funny. I’m not too enamored with the story and characters yet, so we’ll see.
THE MONUMENTS MEN (Feb. 7th) – Outside than its stellar cast, The Monuments Men appeals to me largely because it might actually be a different kind of World War II film. There’s an interesting message implied in the trailers about the importance of preserving our culture and artistic heritage, even if they seems unimportant in the face of our own survival. My hope is that it won’t devolve into some sort of super sentimental sap fest like some other specialty World War II movies tend to do. I trust a lot of the talent involved, so I’m optimistic that it’ll be a pretty solid movie, maybe even a really good one. Again, we’ll see.
THE WIND RISES (Feb. 21st) – Easily my most anticipated film of the year. Though it got a limited release in the States in November, most audiences won’t be able to see this until February when it gets its full on wide release. The swan song of master animator Hayao Miyazaki, the film is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Zero fighter plane used in the Second World War by the Japanese. Everything I’ve seen about this movie shows that it’ll be just as visually sumptuous as the director’s previous works. Miyazaki is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, and I love pretty much all of his films (with Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away being some of my all-time favorites). I missed out seeing Ponyo on the big screen, so I’m hoping my theater shows this so I can experience at least one Miyazaki movie the big screen.
THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Mar. 7th) – I’m not really a Wes Anderson fan, at least not to the extent some others I know are. Of his films I’ve only seen The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr. Fox, and while I loved the latter, the first one left me a bit…nonplussed. This is another film that won me over largely with its trailer. It was so goofy, so full of its own unique brand of infectious energy and giddy wit that it left me wanting so much more (which is what trailers are meant to do, so way to go trailer). It also has one of, if not THE most star-studded cast of actors I’ve seen on any movie (seriously, look at the cast list and tell me I’m wrong). From what I could glean, our hero is an up and coming bus boy at the prestigious Grand Budapest Hotel, where his mentor Mr. Gustave H. gets tangled up in a murder mystery centered on an old woman he was…ahem…“acquainted” with, as well as a painting known only as “boy with apple”. Problem is the authorities think Gustave is the one responsible for her murder. People are chased, quirky dialogue is exchanged, hilarity ensues.
MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Mar. 21st) – I liked The Muppets, so I’ll probably like Muppets Most Wanted. Not much else beyond that…I mean it’s the Muppets, right?
NOAH (Mar. 28th) – A pretty big hole in my movie going experience is that I’ve never actually seen a Darren Aronofsky film. Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, and Black Swan all movies I’d probably enjoy, but just never really gotten around to watching. This is actually one of two Old Testament movies to come out this year (The other being Ridley Scott’s Exodus, which I’ll get to later) and while there are only a few that I feel have really succeeded in telling a good story on their own, this one promises to be something a little different. A big problem I have with a lot of biblical films is that they often whitewash the more controversial, less savory content that doesn’t really jive with the contemporary view of the Judeo-Christian mythos. This film promises to go full on crazy vengeful God, with the more bizarre elements of the Old Testament getting the proper cinematic treatment they deserve. It has a strong cast, but it kind of leaves a bitter taste when movies cast biblical stories with all white casts in ostensibly Middle Eastern settings. The word out of the preview screenings has been mixed, but I’m excited anyways because it promises to be something different, and different is good, right?
TRANSCENDENCE (Apr. 18th) – A possible wild card in the 2014 slate. This is the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan’s usual cinematographer, Wally Pfister. The premise sounds like a good dose of solid, hard sci-fi, centering on the growing movement around the idea of the “singularity”. Basically it’s the idea that one day humanity will be able to preserve their consciousness through technology and thus achieve some measure of immortality. The film stars Johnny Depp, playing a scientist who comes closer and closer to achieving this lofty goal, but is hindered at every turn by various forces that don’t want him to succeed. Beyond that, there’s actually very little info about it, but I’m intrigued enough by the premise, even in a year that is already shaping up to be filled with a lot of great sci-fi flicks.
GODZILLA (May 16th) – Another film that sold me through the trailer. Instead of the borderline camp of the last western swing at the king of monsters, this one has set its sights firmly on Godzilla as horrific force of nature. Everything from the haunting choral track to the classic Godzilla roar puts it more in line with the original film than the kid oriented entries that followed it. Perhaps more importantly, despite being from the same studio, this is a very different kind of kaiju flick compared to this year’s Pacific Rim. There are no giant robots here to defend us, there’s only people trying to survive the force of nature that is Godzilla. Bryan Cranston is set to star which just makes me all the more excited.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (May 23rd) – The X-Men franchise has tends to be a bit shaky in terms of quality. Half of them are good, and the other half are…well…not as good. Thankfully, this entry in the franchise brings back the director of two of the good ones, and a pretty outstanding cast as well. Based off one of the seminal story arcs from the X-Men comics of the same name, this film unites the casts of the original series and the excellent First Class. There’s time travel, giant killer robots, and James McAvoy with a hobo beard! When your movie includes Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewert, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence, and Hugh Jackman, and Peter Dinklage all on screen at once, it’s hard not to get even just a little excited. My only major worry is that with such a massive cast it’ll be trying too hard to cram in as much story and character development as possible. From what I’ve read, though, it’s also setting up ANOTHER X-Men movie: X-Men: Apocalypse, so I don’t think they’re just wrapping this up with one movie.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (June 6th) – I don’t know what it is, but over the past couple of years, the number of quality high school movies has shot up a lot. The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now represent a growing number of high school movies that feel more honest and relevant rather than simply relying on clichés and outdated plots from the 80’s. Based on the popular YA adult novel by John Green, this movie will center on two teens, both with cancer, who fall for each other at their support group and deal with the uncertainty that their lives have dealt them. I haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve heard it is excellent. I’ll definitely pick it up when I get the chance. I look forward to bawling my eyes out at the inevitable, soul crushing tragedy the premise implies.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (June 13th) – I was pleasantly surprised by the first How the Train Your Dragon, much like I’m sure a lot of people were. For how close the release date is, I don’t know a lot about what this next entry in the franchise is even about. As I’ve said before, though, Dreamworks has really been on a creative upswing lately, so I’m optimistic that this will at least be good. I wasn’t as utterly crazy about the first one as some other people were, but I do think the universe set up in the first installment definitely leaves room for some interesting stories to tell. What promotion I have seen seems to promise something a little darker and more mature (and the first one got pretty dark already, so who knows where it’s going this time around).
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (July 11th) – For how popular the first entry in this franchise reboot was, there’s surprisingly little hype surrounding this. Andy Serkis returns as Ceaser, an ape who was medically altered to have greater intelligence, and with that intelligence begins an uprising that leaves the future of the world in limbo. The end of the first movie (spoilers) implies that humanity is going to be killed off by a virus, setting up fairly conclusively the titular “planet of the apes” already. Once they start rolling out the promotion, I’m sure the intent of this movie will become clearer, but for now, all I can do is speculate.
JUPITER ASCENDING (July 18th) – I doubt there are a lot of people excited about this movie like I am, but I’m really really excited for this one. I’m a HUGE fan of the Wachowski’s, and have enjoyed pretty much all of their movies (even the Matrix sequels and Speed Racer, with Cloud Atlas being one of my favorites from last year). This film is their first venture into original, non-adapted work since the end of the Matrix series. From what I’ve seen in the trailer, it’s hard to tell exactly what direction their going with this, but when your main heroine is called “Jupiter Jones”, it’s probably going to err more on the side of pulpy space opera than the cyberpunk sensibilities of The Matrix. The plot centers on our titular heroine, a maid who’s drawn into a galactic conflict wherein here genetic code somehow poses some kind of threat to the queen of the universe or something. Does it sound silly? Yes, yes it does. Am I excited? Hell yeah I am!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Aug. 1st) – Of all the upcoming Marvel movies, this is the one I’m most looking forward to. I know next to nothing about the source material (like most moviegoers), and that’s o.k., because in a series of films that are becoming increasingly predictable and manufactured, having something this out of left field is incredibly refreshing. Being more in line with a space opera than Thor was, this movie promises to expand the scope of the Marvel cinematic universe to include a wider galactic conflict, setting up the plots that I assume will become the focus of Avengers 2 and 3. If the teaser at the end of Thor 2 was any indication, this movie will be utterly bizarre and very different from your normal superhero fare. It helps that they’ve got such a bizarre director at the helm, whose films range from body horror (Slither) to outright superhero satire (Super).
THE GIVER (Aug. 15th) – At least for people my age, The Giver was required reading at some point in our school life. Jeff Bridges is set to star as the titular “giver”, which definitely gives the film a strong core to work with. My big worry is that they’re going to neuter the controversial elements and ambiguous ending for the sake of marketability. It’s a solid piece of YA dystopia, and it’d be a shame if such a powerful story goes to waste like so many others have.
SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (Aug. 22nd) – This one’s been a long time coming. Every year it seems like this movie gets pushed back later and later, but this time it looks like we’re finally going to get it. I really liked the first Sin City, even if it succeeded more on a visual and visceral level than a narrative one. My uncertainty surrounding this one largely centers on the fact that Rodriguez really hasn’t come out with a really good film since…well…Sin City actually. However much I enjoyed watching Machete Kills, it wasn’t for the same reasons I enjoyed his early work.
THE BOXTROLLS (Sep. 26th) – Stop-motion doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Just watching how people make these kinds of movies absolutely blows my mind. The Boxtrolls is from the same studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman, both fantastic films in their own right. The character designs are unique, the voice cast is solid. Not much else to say, looks good.
GONE GIRL (Oct. 1st) – I know next to nothing about it, but it’s from David Fincher, so I’m already sold.
BIG HERO 6 (Nov. 7th) – In my mind Walt Disney Animation Studios has been inching past Pixar in terms of quality output in recent years. Not only is this a Disney movie, but it’s also a Marvel movie as well. From what little I’ve seen of the test footage, they’re really going for western-eastern fusion in its style (it’s setting is called San Fransokyo, I mean come on!). Like Guardians of the Galaxy, I know very little about the source material. Hey…maybe I should actually start reading more comics…for research, you know?
INTERSTELLAR (Nov. 7th) – My excitement for this film solely rests on the fact that it’s a Christopher Nolan movie. My apprehension ALSO rests largely on the fact that this is a Christopher Nolan movie. I know so little about it beyond the premise: a group of explorers’ journey into the depths of space and travel to some kind of wormhole to the unknown reaches of the universe. I saw the trailer in front of The Hobbit, and it didn’t really get me all fired up like the trailer for Inception did. While I am a Nolan fan, The Dark Knight Rises sort of made it more apparent the weaknesses story wise that have been there in Nolan’s films all along but just weren’t as noticeable.
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 (Nov. 21st) – Honestly, I wouldn’t have cared about this one at all if the last one wasn’t as good as it was. I’ve only read the first book in this series, and barring the possibility of enormous amounts of free time, I probably won’t. I feel like I was able to get into Catching Fire a lot better not having the book hanging over my head in comparison. The film ends on quite a cliffhanger, and to put it plainly I just really want to see what happens next. I want to see how Katniss gets out of this, or even IF she gets out of this. I’ve heard that the third book is very divisive amongst fans, so I’m sure it’ll spark a lot of controversy upon its release. I don’t know why they decided to split it into two movies (actually I do, its money) but Harry Potter managed to pull it off, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one pulling out all stops for an epic conclusion.
EXODUS (Dec. 12th) – I know next to nothing about this beyond the director, cast, and that it’s yet another Exodus film. With that said, that director is Ridley Scott, and the cast does include Christian Bale and Sigourney Weaver (yay, more whitewashing…). I’m a fan of a lot of Scott’s “historical” epics like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. His last two films have been critical disappointments, though, and the buzz around this hasn’t been as fervered as one would think a Ridley Scott biblical epic would imply it to be. This and Noah could go either way for me, I sense a strong rivalry between these two, even if they go in different directions.
THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN (Dec. 17th) – If you had asked me a year or so ago what my most anticipated movie of 2014 was going to be, this would have been right at the top of the list. I make no secret about my love of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, just as I make no secret about the disappointment I had over the Hobbit films. It’s not that they’re bad, and the most recent entry was even an improvement over the first, but it doesn’t really inspire the same giddy fanboying it did when those first trailers came out. It promises to end with a bang, and I genuinely don’t know where they’re going with some of the expanded material. That excitement, though, is tempered by the knowledge that it probably just won’t be quite as good as I hope it will be. I don’t know, maybe I’ll be proven wrong.
INTO THE WOODS (Dec. 25th) – It’s about time! One of my favorite stage musicals is finally getting the big screen treatment. It’s still too early to tell whether this might turn out good or not: Rob Marshall has some good experience directing musicals, and a lot of the cast looks good. I’ll reserve preliminary judgment until I see a trailer. Disney’s been on a roll with lampooning its own squeaky clean fairy tale image, but I’m not so certain that it can do justice to the darker, more mature themes set out in this particular tale. The screenplay was written by James Lapine, the writer of the original book for the musical, so I imagine it’ll at least be faithful. Do I think this’ll turn out as well as the material deserves? I wish…
And that’s it! I’ll be a little late on a “best movies from this year” list. I’ve got a few more big ones I haven’t seen and need to see. A few more reviews before the year is done! Here’s hoping for at least one more big surprise.