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Thursday, January 23, 2014

25 Films to Look forward to in 2014

Kyle relays the films he's most excited for in the coming year, and no, the talking raccoon movie didn't make it.

It's that time of the year again, where I take a look at the upcoming film release calendar and let you know what I think is worthy of your attention. Granted, these are all just guesses on my part based on past success (who can forget my nod to The Counselor last year?). I'm sure there'll be another disaster of the kind this year, but we'll hope for the best.

While we await the blockbuster onslaught of 2015, 2014 is shaping up to be a year that focuses more on the auteur, which for cinephiles is an exciting prospect. We've got new films coming from a number filmmakers that have shaped my personal taste in cinema over the past decade and a half, all of which have made this list. Additionally, there are a couple of interesting tent-poles that I think may have the potential to go to fascinating places narratively.

As a number of these films have not yet announced firm release dates, I've opted to just go alphabetical order with the list.

What's it about?: An actor famous for portraying an iconic superhero – struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.
Why should you care?:  Alejandro González Iñárritu is a fascinating creative mind, having put together some of my favorite films of the last decade (Amores Perros, Babel), but has covered the market on bleak topics. With Birdman, he's making a comedy for the first time. Michael Keaton will star, which is a prospect of notice in of itself, as he's long overdue for a comeback. He'll be joined by Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifinakis, and Amy Ryan amongst others.
When's it coming out?: No release date yet

What's it about?: The film tells a story of a divorced couple trying to raise their young son. The story follows the boy for twelve years, from first grade at age 6 through 12th grade at age 17-18, and examines his relationship with his parents as he grows
Why should you care?: Richard Linklater just completed (maybe?) one of the most important trilogies in cinematic history through his examination of growing middle age and relationships in Before Midnight. Boyhood is the movie he was filming at the same time, and beforehand, having been working on the project for the past 12 years. It's like the Before series, but compressed into one movie, as we'll see Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Ellar Salmon age in real time over the course of 2 hours or so. The raves have already started to come in from the Sundance Film Festival. This is definitely in my top three most anticipated.
When's it coming out?: It just opened at Sundance, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it hit the arthouse circuit by May, just like Before Midnight.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
What's it about? Two years after the events of The Avengers. Steve Rogers resides peacefully in Washington, D.C., struggling to adapt to contemporary society. However, after a SHIELD compatriot is assailed, Steve becomes entangled in a mystery that may endanger the globe. Together with Natasha Romanov, Captain America attempts to uncover the growing machination while fending off hired hit men. When the entire scheme is discovered, Captain America and the Black Widow must recruit the aid of the Falcon and soon encounter an unanticipated and powerful adversary, The Winter Soldier. 
Why should you care?: Well, two major reasons anyway, Captain America: The First Avenger is still probably the best of the more recent Marvel Studios films and a return to Chris Evans' earnest performance in the role is quite welcome, akin to my affectation of Robert Downey's portrayal of Tony Stark. Additionally this story line is based on the best Captain America story ever penned, by Ed Brubaker. While I have some trepidations about the Russo Brothers (of You, Me and Dupree "fame") helming this sophomore outing for the Captain, I'm hoping that this one will be as pleasant a surprise as Joe Johnston's (another beleaguered journeyman) initial Captain America film.
When's it coming out?: April 4, 2014

What's it about?: Set in 1950s New York, a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life falls for an older, married woman.
Why should you care?: Because Todd Haynes basically. Haynes has long been a director of interest for me with Velvet Goldmine and I'm Not There standing as fascinating experiments with the form. It's also his return to the big screen since the latter in 2007. Additionally this seems like math that cannot fail (Cate Blanchett + Todd Haynes, which is also an I'm Not There reunion). The film is an adaptation of a well received Patricia Highsmith novel.
When's it coming out?: Maybe in 2014, but dependent upon the Weinstein Company's packed schedule, this may see a push into 2015. It'll likely remain on the list if so. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
What's it about?: Come on....okay, okay, here's the synopsis: Eight years after the events of the first film, a growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed eight years earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth's dominant species
Why should you care?: 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fun diversion, not the banner in blockbuster filming that many would claim, but quite enjoyable. The sequel seemingly will improve upon that formula in many respects, a better director in Matt Reeves, a better cast (Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell), and hopefully a good deal more speaking time for Andy Serkis.
When's it coming out?: July 11, 2014

Ex Machina
What's it about?: Caleb, a 24 year old coder at the world's largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world's first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.
Why should you care?: It basically sounds like Her meets Transcendence (the latter of which found its way off this last after a terrible first trailer). Alex Garland has written some of the best, most unique, genre scripts of the past 10 years (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, Dredd), and Ex Machina is worthy of note because it marks his directorial debut. Pulling in Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Issac certainly doesn't hurt either. This will be a fairly micro-budget ($15 million) affair, expect a heavy indie slant.
When's it coming out?: No release date as of yet

What's it about?: A comedy about a young wannabe musician, Jon, who discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
Why should you care?: Michael Fassbender spends the entire movie in a giant cardboard head. It's also aiming to be a pretty stirring tribute to departed musician Chris Sievey, who created the character "Frank Sidebottom" upon which this film is very loosely based, but the film is no biography, but rather a tribute to the creative process. Also, the music is looking to be a big highlight. Fassbender is joined by Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy.
When's it coming out?: Mid to late 2014 is likely.

Gone Girl
What's it about?: On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his beautiful wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior has everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
Why should you care?: David Fincher is reuniting with his behind the scenes team from The Social Network and The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (namely DP Jeff Cronenweth and Composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and this adaptation of Gillian Flynn's massively popular novel seems like a fascinatingly off-beat choice for the director. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nike and Amy respectively, and anytime we get a chance to see Pike in a starring role is worth some level of notice. This will mark Fincher's fifth straight book adaptation...seriously! But they've all been worthy of notice (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button excepted of course), hopefully this film will be able to stand alongside Zodiac and The Social Network. I'm curious how Fincher will adapt the unreliable narrator structure of the source material.
When's it coming out?: October 3, 2014

The Grant Budapest Hotel
What's it about?: In 1920s Europe, a famed hotel concierge by the name of Gustave H. is bequeathed a painting called Boy with Apple after his one night stand, Madame D, is killed. Madame D's son, Dmitri, vows revenge on Gustave by framing him for Madame D's murder. Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy, and his love interest, Agatha, help Gustave hide Boy with Apple from Dmitri and the authorities.
Why should you care?: Any Wes Anderson film is worth at least one viewing, and they often grow in my estimation upon a second and third. What's exciting here though is that he's teaming with Ralph Fiennes (replacing Johnny Depp, who made another brilliant career decision) taking the lead of his cast of regulars (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton etc..) along with some newcomers like Lea Seydoux. After Moonrise Kingdom and The Fantastic Mister Fox, Wes Anderson has hit another career hotstreak potentially, and if reports are to be believed, this film will live up to those expectations.
When's it coming out?: March 7, 2014

How to Catch a Monster
What's it about?: A single mother enters a dark lifestyle, while her son uncovers a road leading to an underwater utopia.
Why should you care?: It's the directorial debut of Ryan Gosling, and a major jump to the big screen for former Doctor Who star Matt Smith. Additionally, Christina Hendricks and Saoirse Ronan co-star. Not much else is really known about the plot other than it mixes high fantasy with R-rated sexual themes. Hopefully Gosling has picked up some tools from his collaborations with Nicolas Winding Refn and Derek Cianfrance. This movie could also be an utter mess. Warner Bros was pretty hot on it, but what studios think will work vs. what actually translates for a mainstream audience couldn't be further apart at times.
When's it coming out?: Late 2014

Inherent Vice
What's it about?: Private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend in Los Angeles.
Why should you care?: Speaking of films that probably won't land with general audiences; this is Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel which mixes gumshoe noir with 60's era psychedelia. This could be Anderson's oddest film yet, and it reunites him with his lead from The Master, Joaquin Phoenix who has recently become one of the most well-regarded actors in Hollywood, as well as his regular cinematographer Robert Elswit (who was unavailable for The Master), and composer Johnny Greenwood. Anytime PT Anderson releases a film, it automatically becomes an anticipatory date on the calendar for me, a claim I can only make for one other filmmaker. According to Josh Brolin (who joins the cast, amongst others like Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Martin Short and Benicio Del Toro) the shoot was "absolute fucking chaos (in a good way)". I can't wait!
When's it coming out?: Don't expect this until the Winter of 2014 most likely, I doubt the late Spring mistake will be made as was the case with The Master

What's it about?: When a wormhole (which hypothetically can connect widely-separated regions of spacetime) is newly discovered, a team of explorers and scientists embark on a voyage through it to transcend previous limitations on human space travel.
Why should you care?: Here's the other filmmaker that will automatically get a "save the date" with me. Christopher Nolan is to me what Ridley Scott never quite amounted to, which was being able to bridge the gap consistently between art-house fare and popcorn cinema (The Dark Knight, Memento, and Inception are particularly a testament to that skill). With Interstellar, he's teaming with Matthew McConaughey (following up a career year), Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow and more; it's quite the decorated cast. Plot details are pretty tight lipped, as they were with Inception, but you can expect this one to be a pretty impressive mind-bender. The standard Nolan behind the camera team is back, except with one exception, Wally Pfister was off making Transcendence, so Nolan has brought on Hoyte van Hoytema as his DP. This might be one area where his films' cinematography could see an upgrade from an already pretty darn impressive status. This is probably my number one most anticipated film, though Inherent Vice is right there as well.
When's it coming out?: November 7. 2014

Jupiter Ascending
What's it about?: Jupiter Jones is an unlucky Russian immigrant who cleans toilets for a living. She encounters Caine, an interplanetary warrior whom the Queen of the Universe sent to kill Jupiter. Caine tells Jupiter that the stars were pointing to an extraordinary event on the night she was born, and that her DNA could mark her as the universe's next leader.
Why should you care?: The trailer for this new Wachowski's project was not terribly impressive. On the other hand, I had a fascination with their visual sense and their remarkable world building skills. While Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas were incredibly flawed films, they had just enough there to remain watchable throughout and the ambition of both flew right in the face of standard blockbuster offerings. This being their first original project since The Matrix, I think it's worthy of some attention until I'm proven wrong. Plus Channing Tatum is some kind of space elf, that's kind of neat in 2014, no matter how cynical you are.
When's it coming out?: July 18, 2014

Knight of Cups
What's it about?: A man, temptations, celebrity, and excess. Sounds like a Terrence Malick film.
Why should you care?: It's a Terrence Malick film. who, regardless of his recent misfire with last year's To The Wonder, is still one of the most influential directors in cinematic history. There isn't much else known about the film other than it stars Christian Bale (maybe) and Natalie Portman (maybe), amongst a bunch of other great actors that have filmed scenes that may or may not make it into the final film. Interestingly, Malick has also been working on a film concurrent to this one set in the Austin, Texas music scene, but Knight of Cups has a composer hired, so it's more likely to be released first, probably.
When's it coming out?: Whenever Malick feels like it really, we'll assume 2014 sometime, but this could easily be 2015 or 2016 instead.

Love & Mercy
What's it about?: The story follows Brian Wilson's life from the mid-1960s through to the early-1990s. Including his rise with the Beach Boys and their esteemed Pet Sounds album, the experimental but volatile Smile recording sessions, Wilson's ostensible "recluse period" and notorious drug addictions thereon, and his comeback during the 1980s which immediately preceded the highly-publicized civil suit against Dr. Eugene Landy for medical malpractice
Why should you care?: If there's ever been a subject that could make for a fascinating biopic, it's Brian Wilson. There was a point in my life where I even batted back and forth on an idea of a screenplay about the man myself. Luckily for the world, Oren Moverman (writer of I'm Not There and director of The Messenger) beat me to it. Wilson will be portrayed by two different actors, Paul Dano during his Beach Boy years and John Cusack as an older, post-nervous breakdown version. While I often dread music bio-pics (Walk the Line and Ray being the prime lame offenders), Moverman's deftly unusual hand in dealing with Bob Dylan leaves me with some level confidence that this particular film won't fall into the same tropey territory. The story of Brian Wilson could carry some fascinating visuals, and pretty tremendous music for that matter.
When's it coming out? No release date as of yet

Magic in the Moonlight
What's it about?: A period romantic comedy, set in the south of France, which takes place in the 1920s and 30s.
Why should you care?: Woody Allen just came off a career highlight in the fabulous Blue Jasmine, which was in my Top 10 of the year until Her came along and knocked it down a slot. In Magic in the Moonlight, he has a brand new muse in Emma Stone and a leading man in Colin Firth. Those three elements combined mean I will be there opening weekend. While it's unknown whether or not this film will be more melancholy in tone like its predecessor, those two leads could be enough to secure a new hot streak for Allen.
When's it coming out?: Likely looking at a mid-summer premiere, ala Blue Jasmine.

Midnight Special
What's it about?: A father and son attempt to evade government officials when they learn the boy has supernatural powers.
Why should you care?: Jeff Nichols is one of the brightest young directors coming up in the biz with Take Shelter and Mud as some of the best cinema to come out in their respective years, as well as acting reel highlights for their stars. This is his first foray into big budget sci-fi, which he's comparing to a John Carpenter film, particularly Starman. This will also mark a reunion for Nichols with his frequent star Michael Shannon, of which I'd be disappointed if he wasn't involved, and also brings on Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, and Kirsten Dunst. I'm utterly fascinated by the idea of Nichols expanding his palette into a whole new genre and I wish more filmmakers were as gutsy.
When's it coming out?: Late this year, probably the Fall.

What's it about?: The Biblical Noah suffers visions of an apocalyptic deluge and takes measures to protect his family from the coming flood.
Why should you care?: Darren Aronofsky is Hannah's favorite filmmaker, particularly recently (The Fountain to Black Swan) and I find that same stretch to be rather admirable as well. After a few false starts on trying to attach himself to a big budget franchise (he lost out on Man of Steel to Zack Snyder, and he dropped out of The Wolverine and Robocop at different points in time) he ended up landing on this Russell Crowe starring Biblical epic. It's apparently a dream project that's been a fascination of his since he was 13, so it's definitely not a paycheck. The first trailer was disastrous in its attempt to draw in a religious audience, particularly as the advance word on the film has stated that (unless things have been massively changed in edits by the studio) this is a much more Old Testament based mythological take, with giant six-armed angels and the like. The cast is a little shaky, but with Jennifer Connelly and Ray Winstone being particularly inspired choices, this could be a fascinating little failure commercially, which it inevitably will be, is my first guess. (Religious audiences are much more likely to flock to the seemingly safer Exodus, and unless the marketing readjusts, it might be hard to pull in others).
When's it coming out?: March 28, 2014

What's it about?: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.
Why should you care?: Lars von Trier is definitely one of the singularly unique voices in cinema, and this looks like an interesting meditation on sexual addiction, perhaps even a female counterpoint to Steve McQueen's Shame. It's split into two parts, with the first film following the younger version of the lead played by Stacey Martin, while Charlotte Gainsborough plays the older version in the second. Von Trier is nothing if not a button pusher, and advance word on this opus is that its his signature style blown up to an even larger extent. This is a film that will be for a very select audience, much like Melancholia and Anti-Christ were, but I'm willing to bet it'll be one of the most talked about as well.
When's it coming out?: Part 1 goes VOD first on March 6, 2014 (March 21st theatrical), Part 2 is on VOD April 3rd, 2014 (April 18th theatrical)

The Rover
What's it about?: In a war-torn future beset by financial collapse, a man trudges across the Australian desert to locate his stolen car and secure the mysterious cargo found inside.
Why should you care?: This is David Michod's follow-up to Animal Kingdom, one of the better debuts I can remember and reunites him with Guy Pearce, as well as gives another shot at a "serious starring vehicle" for Robert Pattinson, who just hasn't quite been able to shed his Twilight image for most. While the concept is vaguely sci-fi sounding, Michod has stated that the movie will actually be an "existentialist western" but set in the Outback. I'm hopeful this will be the big surprise of 2014 that at least draws greater attention to just how good Michod is.
When's it coming out?: Fall 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
What's it about?: Four more tales of Sin City that fall within the margins of the previous films criss-crossing storylines. Most notably will be an adaptation of Frank Miller's second graphic novel in the line: A Dame to Kill For
Why should you care?: If you liked Sin City, and I did very much, you'll probably enjoy what's being offered here, including Mickey Rourke reprising his role as Marv, and Jessica Alba returning as Nancy, amongst other returning players and a few new faces including Josh Brolin taking over the role of Dwight (it'll make sense in-story when you see it) and Joseph Gordon Levitt playing a completely original character created by Miller for the movie. I'm generally not a Robert Rodriguez fan, but Sin City was impeccable and one of the finest comic book adaptations ever made. The sequel had me last year when it was originally coming out, it's got me again for sure this year.
When's it coming out?: August 22, 2014 

Slow West
What's it about?: The film follows a 17-year-old boy on a journey across 19th Century frontier America in search of the woman he loves, while accompanied by mysterious traveler Silas.
Why should you care?: This is Michael Fassbender's big passion project, and my love of the actor is probably the only reason I'm even remotely interested, though having former Beta Band member John Maclean on-board as director is also enough to pique me a bit. Add in Ben Mendelsohn in support and I think this could make for worthwhile Saturday afternoon viewing. Other than The Counselor, Fassbender's done a tremendous job picking his projects and with the amount of time he's invested into this one, it's worth notice.
When's it coming out?: Most likely Winter 2014

The Trip to Italy
What's it about?: Two men, six meals in six different places on a road trip around Italy. Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and ending in Capri.
Why should you care?: Steven Coogan and Rob Brydon's The Trip was one of the delightful surprises of my 2010 film viewing, with endlessly quotable segments that we still throw out every now and then around the house. The plot of that film was fairly inconsequential, but the time spent with these two delightful gentlemen was very welcome. Even if it's more of the same, I'll take it, they've definitely had some good Michael Caine material to absorb in the intervening time between films. I'll be particularly interested to see how their discussions of fame have altered given Coogan's rising star.
When's it coming out?: The film version has premiered at Sundance, with the longer television version coming to the UK shortly thereafter. I'd expect this in the Early Spring of this year.

While We're Young
What's it about?: A fortysomething couple befriend a younger, hipper pair of twentysomethings.
Why should you care?: Much like Wes Anderson has hit a high point recently, his often-time collaborator Noah Baumbach did the same with last year's Francis Ha, which was such an exuberantly joyous film that I couldn't help but love it, particularly upon a rewatch. While We're Young reteams Baumbach with his Greenberg star Ben Stiller, while bringing in Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfriend and Naomi Watts. While this script was written right after Greenberg, which was a bit of a misfire from the director, hopefully this will carry more of Frances Ha's energy. Stiller could use a good bounceback after The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
When's it coming out?: Fall 2014 hopefully, but a sooner release date wouldn't surprise.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

What's it about?: The X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in a battle that must change the past – to save their future.
Why should you care?: Bryan Singer, absent from the franchise since X2 (though he produced and helped developed the story for First Class) is back behind the camera for this installment. X2 is the high-point of this X-Men series, so that's a promising development in of itself. It also helps that this film is likely intended to provide some closure for the original X-Men cast before we fully move on to the further adventures of the younger team. Singer hasn't made a good film in quite some time, but hopefully being back in familiar waters gave him some renewed creative energy. Fox has alot riding on this movie, as it's the lynchpin by which their "X-Men universe" will build out from. They certainly have pulled out all the stops as best they could. I'm definitely looking forward to Ian McKellen's Magneto meeting Michael Fassbender's.
When's it coming out?: May 23, 2014

What did I miss? What are you most excited for in 2014? Let me know in the comments below!
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