Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Movie Guru's Top 25 Most Anticipated Films of 2014

My goal was to have my "Best of 2013" list up by the actual end of the year, but it looks like that isn't going to happen. I'm setting a tentative date of January 12 for the release of my list, but that could change. I'll say this though: 2013 has been the best year that I've witnessed in my career as a film critic. The year was so diverse, and I'm sure that a lot of these films will become classics in the future. There weren't as many masterpieces in 2013 as there were in 2012, but there were many more great films. All this means that 2014 has a lot to live up to. Can 2014 live up to previous years?

Looking at the schedule, I'm not certain. The blockbusters are looking impressive, but I honestly have no idea about some of the more Oscar-y films, simply because they don't have release dates. But, as of today, these are my most anticipated films of the year. Films such as Her, Labor Day, Lone Survivor, and Inside Llewyn Davis are ineligible for this list, as they are technically 2013 films. However, The Wind Rises is an eligible choice for my list. First, for some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

FURY

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

WELCOME TO YESTERDAY

TRUE STORY

EDGE OF TOMORROW

Now, for the list:

25. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION

Yes, I know that it's just another Michael Bay explosion fest. But I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Transformers films. While Age of Extinction, the fourth film in the Transformers franchise, will likely be no different than the other three, I'm still anticipating it on the basis that it will be a ton of fun. The last Transformers film was really entertaining, and with Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci and rumored Dinobots, I see no reason why Age of Extinction can't be a ton of fun.

24. NIGHTCRAWLER- TBA

Nightcrawler is a film that we know very little about. But just from reading the synopsis, I can tell that if it's made well, Nightcrawler is a film that I will love. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton and Rene Russo. The story follows Gyllenhaal's character as he discovers the world of LA freelance crime journalism. That premise alone sounds like it will make for an interesting film, and one that sounds right in Gyllenhaal's crime drama wheelhouse. Dan Gilroy (brother of Tony Gilroy) is directing. I really can't wait for this film. It sounds very exciting.

23. JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT- January 17

One of my most anticipated films of the year comes out in a matter of a week, and I could be seeing it even sooner. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is hopefully the film that changes the stereotype of January being a dumping ground for film. It looks like a cool spy movie and a slick thriller. I like the idea of Chris Pine playing Jack Ryan, and a cast that includes Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh. Safe to say that I'm quite excite for this one.

22. BIG EYES- TBA

Tim Burton was last seen back in 2012 when he had two movies: the stinker Frankenweenie and box office bomb Dark Shadows. Now he's back with a film that sounds more interesting than any of those combined. Amy Adams stars as Margaret Keane, the painter whose work was massively famous in the 1950's. The film also stars Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, and Jason Schwartzman. This sounds like a great premise. This is certainly going to be one of The Weinstein Company's big Oscar plugs next year.

21. THE MONUMENTS MEN- February 7

The Monuments Men was originally set to be released on December 18 of last year, but was pushed back because Clooney couldn't finish the film in time. It still is one of the most interesting movies simply because of the setting and the talent involved. The Monuments Men looks like a slightly more irreverent take on World War II, and seems to have a strong sense of humor. In addition, this is a film that stars Matt Damon, George Clooney, John Goodman, and Jean Dujardin. What's not to like.

20. JUPITER ASCENDING- July 18

Jupiter Ascending comes from Andy and Lana Wachowski who have made a career off of crazy movies. The Matrix is often considered to be one of the best sci-fi movies ever, Speed Racer is a film that I like more than most, and Cloud Atlas was an ambitious, divisive disaster at the box office. It's a bit of a shock to me that Warner Bros. greenlit Jupiter Ascending, a $200 million original blockbuster. However, I'm extremely happy that they did. The film looks absolutely crazy and I hope that it reaches its potential.

19. MUPPETS MOST WANTED- March 21

The Muppets was one of the best movies of 2011, so it's a given that Muppets Most Wanted would be on my most anticipated list for 2014. The film doesn't look quite as good, and the marketing hasn't been quite as creative, but I'm still looking forward to another Muppets film. The cast is led by Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, and Ricky Gervais this time around, but obviously the stars are The Muppets.

18. UNBROKEN- December 25

Unbroken is the latest film from director Angelina Jolie. That doesn't excite me for the film, but the fact that it's a WWII movie set in the pacific, with the Coen brothers taking screenplay duties, does have me excited. My dad just read the book, and he's had nothing but raves for it, so I'm sure that the source material is there. This is definitely one of next year's big Oscar contenders and I hope that it's excellent. It looks very promising.

17. THE LEGO MOVIE- February 7

Over the years, animated movies have become less and less creative. Dreamworks is making films like The Croods and Puss in Boots, while Pixar has made Monsters University, Cars 2, and Brave over the last three years. Only Disney has managed to stay in the business with innovative animated films like Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph. But Disney may have company now. Warner Bros. Pictures' The Lego Movie looks like one of the coolest animated movies of the last few years. It's a mixture of animation and stop-motion and it's written by the immensely clever Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). Safe to say that this is high on my most anticipated list.

16. THE WIND RISES- February 21

Speaking of animated films, we now have The Wind Rises. To my dismay, I have not seen a single film by acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. That will certainly change when The Wind Rises is released. Supposedly Miyazaki's last film, The Wind Rises is the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese aviation lover who designed planes in WWII. The film received raves in Toronto and is a major player at this year's Academy Awards. With great vocal talent including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci, some splendid animation and great reviews, it's no surprise that The Wind Rises is so high on my list.

15. JERSEY BOYS- June 20

Jersey Boys is the latest film from director Clint Eastwood. It's based on the musical which chronicles the rise of The Four Seasons, a music group in the 1960's. I'm extremely excited for this film. The musical is one of the most popular to hit Broadway in recent history and I absolutely love films set in the 60's and 70's. This could be a slam dunk if directed well and I'm sure Eastwood can deliver. This may or may not be an Oscar contender later this year, so look for that.

14. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY- August 1

Guardians of the Galaxy could be another Marvel movie that I enjoy, give a "B+", and move on. Or it could be something truly special. Guardians of the Galaxy has a great cast anchored by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Glenn Close, but it's the tone that Marvel seems to be striving for that has me so interested in this one. Director James Gunn has said that they're going for a tone similar to Star Wars, which sounds awesome. If Marvel can make something more memorable than 2013 efforts, I'll certainly be happy.

13. NOAH- March 28

Noah is actually not the only Biblical film that I'm excited for this year. Exodus (more on that soon) is also being released this year and looks extremely promising. However, Noah is almost as intriguing because of the talent involved. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connolly are reunited to star as Noah and Naameh in a Darren Aronofsky epic. What's not to like with that? I haven't seen any films from Aronofsky, but I know that he's a director of vision, and I hope that he can produce a thrilling, smart Biblical epic in Noah. I'm pretty sure that he can.

12. THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN- December 17

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug starts out terribly, but gets much better as it goes along and builds to an exciting, dramatic conclusion. There's a cliffhanger ending and by that point, it was clear that Peter Jackson had fully convinced me of his Hobbit trilogy. The Hobbit: There and Back Again is the final part of the trilogy and will likely be the most action-packed by far. Peter Jackson saved the franchise from mediocrity with There and Back Again. Now let's see if he can bring it back to greatness again with a killer final act.

11. EXODUS- December 12

I mentioned Exodus a couple movies back, and now I'll get to talk about it a little more extensively. I'm more excited for Exodus than Noah simply because I think that Exodus has the potential to be a more exciting and entertaining movie. Exodus is the story of Moses and stars Christian Bale, Aaron Paul and Joel Edgerton. Plus, it's directed by Ridley Scott who has explored the swords and sandals epic before with Gladiator. If he brings that same touch to Exodus, we're in for a treat.

10. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER- April 4

Well, here we are. It's my top ten most anticipated of 2014. And we start with the sequel to my favorite Marvel movie. Captain America is still the best Marvel movie and I can't help but be excited for The Winter Soldier. This sequel seems more grounded than previous Marvel fare, and it features some seriously cool elements. First, you have Bucky Barnes returning as The Winter Soldier, and then, you have Robert Redford in the movie as well. Plus, cast members have compared this to a 1970's espionage thriller, which sounds awesome. All in all, I'm hoping to see Marvel return to form with this one after two solid outings that could have been better.

9. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL- March 7

Wes Anderson is another one of those directors that I need to see more movies from. The only one that I've seen from him at this point was Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I absolutely loved that movie. Anderson has a unique visual style and that has really come through in the trailers for his latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Ralph Fiennes looks incredible in this, and you have a spectacular supporting cast to back him up. All in all, The Grand Budapest Hotel looks like one of the best movies of the year. I can't wait.

8. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST- May 23

The most ambitious superhero movie since The Dark Knight Rises comes out this year in the form of X-Men: Days of Future Past. This film sees the return of Bryan Singer to the director's chair and also combines the cast of the original trilogy with the cast of First Class. X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men movie, and seeing those characters back on the screen sounds like a lot of fun. Plus, this story sounds incredibly interesting and with the 1960's setting and the political elements, we could be in for something really different and interesting here.

7. TRANSCENDENCE- April 18

Transcendence is the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, who usually is Christopher Nolan's cinematographer. Like Nolan, Pfister is tackling an intriguing, weird sci-fi concept with this one. The cast includes a pretty plain looking Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman. All but one of those actors has starred in a Nolan movie, which gives me a ton of hope for this project. Plus, the look of Transcendence from the trailers seems very similar to a Nolan movie, which is great. It's all about the Nolan connection here.

6. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES- July 11

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to one of the most unexpected surprises of recent years. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was pretty awesome, and I think that Dawn can possibly surpass it. The cast is even stronger for this one. Andy Serkis is returning to play Caesar, but Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Keri Russell join him this time. The first trailer was dark, frightening, and cool. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) hasn't impressed me in the past, but I know that he's good friends with one of my favorite directors (JJ Abrams), which makes me think that he can deliver a quality film here. Plus, he already signed on for part 3 of the Apes series, so that's a very promising sign.

5. FOXCATCHER- TBA

Moneyball is one of the best sports dramas of all time, so of course I'm extremely excited for Bennett Miller's return to the directors chair. Foxcatcher is a sports movie, but honestly, it's more of a psychological thriller. Steve Carell stars as schizophrenic murderer John Du Pont, who killed Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz. The trailer was chilling, and Carell will certainly be a contender for Best Actor at the Oscars next year. Foxcatcher looks like a classic Hollywood take on obsession and that excites me. If you haven't seen the trailer, go watch it now. It will blow you away.

4. GONE GIRL- October 3

David Fincher is always an intriguing director. The Social Network is one of my favorite films of 2010, and he's made a lot of films in the past that people love (I haven't seen many of them). Gone Girl looks to be right in his wheelhouse of dark crime dramas, and I hope that he can knock it out of the park. Plus, you have Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike starring. That's a great combination and I'm sure that this will be a taut thriller from Fincher. The first picture took my excitement to another level. It perfectly conveyed Fincher's style and sold me on the movie. I'm excited for this one.

3. INHERENT VICE- TBA

Most people are excited for this because of Paul Thomas Anderson, the director of the film. I'm excited about that too (even though I haven't seen any of his films), but the fact that Inherent Vice is a 1960's crime comedy has my excitement through the roof. Plus, look at that cast. Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Benecio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, and the list goes on. This is going to be one awesome movie and certainly an Oscar contender come awards season.

2. GODZILLA- May 16

Godzilla is the type of summer blockbuster that I love from the looks of it. The film features big name actors, explosive action, and a daring, inventive director. In addition, that trailer was amazing. Godzilla stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, and Ken Watanabe. That's enough to get me excited, but when you pair that with what looks to be a true epic, my excitement goes through the roof. Godzilla looks like one of the few films that can be truly epic this year. I can't wait.

1. INTERSTELLAR- November 7

What else could top my most anticipated list of the year but Interstellar? The latest film from director Christopher Nolan has a great cast, a spectacular concept, and of course, it has the director himself. Nolan's last three films have knocked it out of the park and two are on my top five list of all time. Interstellar tackles more heavy sci-fi concepts like wormholes and time travel so it's definitely a Nolan movie through and through. We know very little about this film, but I'm hoping that it could play spoiler in the Oscar season. It's certainly safe to say that my excitement for Interstellar could not be any higher. I'm so, so pumped for this one.

Those are my most anticipated. What are yours? Let me know in the comments section below.

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