Movies I Wanna See Most: 2014

2013 was a great year for film. When looking back on the list of my top ten films I wanted to see for the year there were a few that ended up being some of my favorite films of the year which speaks to anticipation vs. expectation in many ways. I was indeed more excited to see some of the films I put on my most anticipated list last year despite the fact I knew their eventual quality would not measure up to what would be necessary to make them one of my favorite pictures of the year. Even that type of list is ridiculous in many ways, but it is easier to make when you have ten solid films that year (and most of the time a few more than that) that you wouldn't mind watching over and over. That is the main ingredient I look for when I narrow down every movie I've seen in the previous year to what I would consider the ten best and that is which ones would I like to watch again? Which ones am I eager to experience one more time? I hope that many of the films I've placed on this list will end up making me feel this way and of course the main reason they are on here is because I can't wait to see them the first time, but the true test is if they deliver on that anticipation and live up to the expectations myself and plenty others will be holding for them. This year, as Marvel Studios and others who own Marvel properties (Sony & Fox) have decided to release a combined four films and I've placed them all in a single slot as I'm excited to see each (some more than others) but more than anything I'm excited to see how they continue to allow the genre to thrive. Other than that I have three other sequels on the list while the remaining six have a particular director or assembled cast that cannot be ignored which means their films will no doubt demand our attention. Here we go...

How to Train Your Dragon 2

I originally had Fast & Furious 7 here prior to the news of Paul Walker's untimely death and the announcement following that the film would be pushed to April of 2015. While I think it best they take their time with that film and in deciding the best course of action to take in this case it simply afforded me the chance to better highlight an animated film that I truly am looking forward to as I simply adored the original. While Pixar has ultimately decided to sit 2014 out they have left the field wide open for rival animation studios such as Dreamworks to flourish and in doing so have made the follow-up to their 2010 hit the one to watch this year. There will of course be other animated sequels (Rio 2) as well as a few original offerings including the surprisingly strong-looking The Lego Movie (from 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller) and The Boxtrolls from Laika Entertainment which produced the wonderful Paranorman last year. Dreamworks will also give us Mr. Peabody and Sherman early in the year, but How to Train Your Dragon 2 will be the the big draw this summer and with the stunningly beautiful first teaser a few months ago and the first full glimpse at the new adventure featuring Hiccup and Toothless five years after the events of the first film things are looking very promising. Director Dean DeBlois returns after sharing duties with Chris Sanders the first time around as the story chronicles how one of our heroes adventures leads them to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, and find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. I'm not typically one to get excited over the thought of what an animated film might ultimately hold in terms of an experience and whether or not it can really fulfill the expectations I hold for most films, but they have taken their time with this sequel and in doing so have built strong anticipation on my part. Dreamworks must really like what they're seeing from DeBlois as well as they already have the third installment scheduled for a 2016 release with DeBlois and the all-star cast already signed on. How to Train Your Dragon 2 opens June 13, 2014. Watch the full trailer here.    

The Grand Budapest Hotel

I can remember first being introduced to Owen Wilson at the age of thirteen when a group of friends and I ventured out to Shanghai Noon on a summer afternoon. Besides the fact that turned out to be a great little action comedy, even in perspective and not overly due to nostalgia, I was struck by the guys sense of humor. When he showed up a few months later in Meet the Parents and the next year in Zoolander I became more interested in the guy and wanted to see more of his work thus leading me inevitably to Bottle Rocket. It was interesting to see the evolution of Anderson and Wilson's relationship to the point they had essentially reached their goals as a team and then broke away periodically to do what they wanted to pursue individually. Wilson was quickly becoming a mainstream comedic actor while at that point Anderson had only made his feature length version of Bottle Rocket and the classic sophomore effort, Rushmore. The anticipation was building for his next effort that would seemingly blend the worlds the two had chosen to explore in that The Royal Tenenbaums brought in Wilson's new friends while boosting the aesthetic and stylistic choices that continue to define Anderson's directorial work. From that point on I've been a fan on Anderson's and was especially fond of his latest effort, Moonrise Kingdom which landed on my top 10 of 2012 at number six. To say that I'm excited to see what he does for his follow-up as well as for his feature where he has both directed and written the script solely on his own for the first time is an understatement. The first trailer premiered a few months back and simply seeing it play before other films and gauging the audience reaction around me has been a splendid experience. No doubt that with the cast Anderson has recruited here (I saw it referred to as the indie Valentine's Day) and the tone of the trailer that we are in for something potentially great and if so, something I hope isn't forgotten by the Academy by the time the 2015 Oscars come around. The Grand Budapest Hotel opens March 7, 2014. Watch the first trailer here.

22 Jump Street

Another of my favorite films of 2012 was the hilarious 21 Jump Street. I always say in my top ten lists that a major factor in determining what some of my favorite films are is the re-watchability factor. Needless to say, I have watched 21 Jump Street countless times and it continues to be as hilarious as ever if not offering up new moments or lines I may have missed before. It is really like the gift that keeps on giving, especially when you consider the state of the comedy genre at the moment. A lot of it is solid stuff, but comedies should be able to be enjoyed over and over again rather than being closer to the dramas that Apatow's recent productions have skewered towards. With 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller will hopefully bring that same energy and enthusiasm with them that made the first film not only a hit, but a truly funny, inventive take on the buddy cop film. As the conclusion to the first film hinted, Jenko and Schmidt will be hitting up college for their undercover investigation this time, but by the sounds of the official synopsis that was just recently released it seems a wrench will be thrown into the mix when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team and he and Schmidt start to really question the nature of their friendship. Granted, we know how all of this will likely pan out, but we all know it isn't as much the story that matters here as it is the chemistry and the creativity of the jokes. If the first teaser red-band trailer is any indication though, they have landed plenty of these jokes and come up with good ways of staying on the edge of the self-deprecating humor and genre bashing that made the first a hit for both mainstream moviegoers and a nice little collection of in-jokes for the cinephiles who have grown tired of the typical studio comedies that plague the majority of the year. 2013 saw a rather nice collection of strong comedy though and I only hope that 22 Jump Street continues that trend when it opens on June 13, 2014. Check out the Red-Band trailer here.

Noah

When it was first announced director Darren Aronofsky would be taking on the story of Noah, as in the story of Noah from the bible concerning the big flood and the two of every animal deal, it was met with a good amount of questioning and justifiably so. I mean, the guy came to prominence after making waves with Requiem for a Dream, a film about the drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island individuals. So, needless to say it was with complete anticipation that people wondered if Aronofsky would adhere to the bible story and how it happened according to Genesis or if he would take the material into his own hands and offer a new interpretation of the events. I don't see an issue with a director's fresh interpretation as that is what you get if you attend church and listen to a sermon every weekend anyway, but when dealing with religious material in any sense it is easy for people to get more touchy than usual and take offense to the smallest of things. There have been early screenings of early cuts of the film to several diverse audiences including one to a largely Jewish audience in New York, a largely Christian audience in Arizona and to the general public in Orange County, California which have apparently all given rise to mixed reactions. Given that Paramount has invested at least $140 million into the production of the film (though to be fair they split that cost with New Regency) it seems clear they will no doubt have a final say in the final cut of the film, but reports make it clear that they want their director to be involved in that final cut which is a good sign for his fans as we hope this will turn out more like an Aronofsky film rather than a corporate project set to only please the majority of the audiences beliefs. I've read a handful of different things concerning the script and how it deviates from the biblical tale and how Aronofsky has turned Noah into an environmentalist, but all of that just makes this more enticing to me and offers up the opportunity to see a genuinely talented filmmaker create a piece of art that is true to his vision and I hope that is the version we ultimately get. Noah is set to open on March 28, 2014. Check out the trailer for it here.

Foxcatcher

Along with starring in the Wachowski's follow-up to Cloud Atlas (Jupiter Ascending, which I outline in an additional section below), returning as Jenko in 22 Jump Street and voicing Superman in The Lego Movie (due February 7) Channing Tatum will also appear in the third directorial effort from Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) in 2014. Foxcatcher was expected to hit theaters and enter the Oscar race this year, but Sony Classics seems to have made a wise decision in postponing the film in what is already a crowded awards season. There are many reasons to look forward to the film as not only has Miller proved himself a dependable and precise filmmaker, but he has shown his ability to bring real-life stories to the screen in a manner that does not simply recount the events of these peoples lives that explain why they deserve to have a movie made about them, but he captures the nature of his subjects existence and the spirit of what they are trying to achieve or overcome. With Foxcatcher, Miller seems to be heading down a similar road in terms of how he crafts his film, but with a very different subject matter concerning real-life events. Based on the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) the film chronicles their relationship with John du Pont (a chilling Steve Carell) who was an eccentric multimillionaire and heir to the duPont chemical fortune. If you are familiar with the story you know it heads into some pretty dark places and while the trailer that debuted back in September offered a glimpse of the look, tone and performances the film will hold I think there is no greater appeal than that of seeing Carell in a drastically different role than we've become accustomed to and not only seeing how well he is able to pull it off, but just how good he actually is because I already believe the man is a talented, talented guy I'm just hoping this is the project that puts on display his full range of skill. While Foxcatcher has been pushed back to an undetermined date in 2014 you can still watch the teaser trailer here.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier / The Amazing Spider-Man 2 /   X-Men: Days of Future Past / Guardians of the Galaxy

As with every year over the past decade or so there will be no shortage of super hero films in 2014. That being said, 2014 feels like an especially calm and quiet year when compared to the big budget/franchise explosion that will beat us over the head in 2015. Still, don't doubt the powers that be and their sly way of creeping in at least four comic book flicks this year that I am more than excited to see though none of them are so much of a higher priority that I would place them higher on the list or separate from this grouping which may or may not be considered cheating. What I wasn't going to do was take up five of my ten spots with super hero flicks despite the fact I really am anxious to see how each of them turn out. First up on the schedule is the sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger with Captain America: Winter Soldier opening on April 4th. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have said their sequel will follow the tone of a 70's crime thriller focusing on Stever Rogers adapting to the modern world while coming face to face with a new threat from ol' Cap's past: Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Next up is Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as it is set to kick off summer on May 2nd and seems to be the most anticipated title of the bunch as Sony is looking to build an anti-Avengers franchise around Spider-Man's mega group of villains in The Sinister Six. The trailer certainly hints at this outcome and the plan for at least two more films bode well for fans eager to see more Spidey. For me, the one I am most looking forward to though would have to be the return of Bryan Singer to the X-Men franchise with Days of Future Past. As the direct sequel to First Class this sequel melds the two franchises together with a time traveling plot and again, seems to be setting the stage for more to come as Singer has already announced he'll be directing the follow-up, X-Men: Apocolypse, in time for it to hit theaters in 2016. For now, we will anticipate Days of Future Past though as we keep the chill-inducing trailer on repeat as we count down to the release on May 23rd. And while May will hold two of the major summer comic book flicks this year June and July will presumably be absent of any comic book inspired fare. We won't even re-visit the Marvel realm again until the dawn of August when James Gunn unleashes Guardians of the Galaxy upon us. I know nothing about this comic, but by the stills, cast and Gunn alone (Slither=greatness) there is reason to be excited and watch the Marvel universe expand even more.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1

While it has hardly been seen on any top ten lists this year, one of the best and most intelligent big budget studio films of 2013 was Francis Lawrence's follow up to The Hunger Games in Catching Fire. I absolutely adored the film for its ability to convey the cavalcade of characters into one strong narrative and convey the themes and tone of Suzanne Collins novels effectively. It was a large improvement on the well made but somewhat underwhelming first installment. As Lawrence will again take the helm for the third and fourth films that split the final book in Collins trilogy into the now mandatory double feature I am more than excited to see what comes next in this compelling story. Though I would have rather them split Catching Fire into two films as that was not only my favorite book it seemed to serve as the most complex in terms of pushing the story forward and developing new characters that prove critical later on down the road. While I was neither as invested or excited, but more than anything frustrated while reading Mockingjay I have hopes it will prove to be a fine cinematic transition. The story truly does go in a few different directions than I expected and there is more than enough material in Mockingjay to craft a substantial introduction and plan of action in District 13 for act one while I'm assuming much of the fourth film will deal with the unavoidable war between the Capitol and the resistance. More than anything I was moved by the performance of Jennifer Lawrence in Catching Fire and the commitment with which she was able to convey the true and varied characteristics of our heroine, Ketniss Everdeen. Aided by the presence of a wonderful supporting cast that includes Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, and Julianne Moore joining the world as President Alma Coin in the final two films there is no reason not to believe Lawrence and his crew will fail in delivering a captivating beginning to the end. The Hunger Games: Mackingjay-Part 1 opens November 21, 2014.    

Gone Girl

There are many books I have on my "to read" list for 2014, but one near the top is Gillian Flynn's bestseller Gone Girl. I've seen the simple and mysterious cover for the book every time I've walked through a Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million over the past two years and have been more than intrigued by it, but it was the announcement that there would be a feature film adapted from the novel that director David Fincher was taking on as his next project that solidified how necessary it was I find time to delve into this story. I've heard from plenty of friends what a page turner the book is and that this is rather dark material that should suit Fincher's style well. I haven't read much into the plot of the film besides the fact it centers on the disappearance of a man's wife and the resulting investigation following it that naturally points fingers towards Affleck's character as the main suspect, but I do know that the book uses a non-linear structure and multiple perspectives which should also lend an engaging set of tools for Fincher to work with in directing a story that seems to fit perfectly into his wheelhouse. It takes a lot for me to recommend a film purely on director and Fincher, along with his leads Affleck and Rosamund Pike certainly add a degree of credibility to the project, but it is the supporting cast that is more questionable. We have the likes of Tyler Perry, Neal Patrick Harris, Casey Wilson and Missi Pyle who are typically seen more in the realm of comedy or if the likes of Perry wanders into dramatic territory it is usually from behind the camera, but if anyone can ease their transition to strong, substantial drama it would be someone like Fincher. The always welcome Scoot McNairy, who has been making the rounds in some great films over the past two years including Killing Them Softly, Argo and 12 Years a Slave is also on the cast roster though and seems to give us good enough reason to trust that he would like to continue his streak of small impressions in exceptional films and that Fincher is as meticulous as ever with his next feature. Gone Girl opens October 3, 2014.

Fury

Writer and director David Ayer made a real impression with 2012's End of Watch. It was one of the most intense and powerful films of the year and certainly one of my favorites. While Ayer has had numerous writing credits on acclaimed films such as Traning Day and Dark Blue he has also been directing for almost ten years now with his debut, Harsh Times, being an underrated Christian Bale performance. The guy knows how to do dark and moody and if End of Watch showed audiences anything it was how far he's come at crafting character-driven dramas that don't skew the ugly facts of life. All of that said, to see those skills and vision applied to 1945 Germany at the very end of World War II is reason to be intrigued. Starring no shortage of appealing actors including Michael Pena, Jason Isaacs, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Bernthal and headed up by Brad Pitt (which is reason enough to make this a must see when looking over how well the guys filmography has shaped up in these last few years) the story revolves around the five-man crew of an American tank called "Fury" lead by a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Pitt) that goes on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. While Ayer has shared plenty of images from the set and given a strong indication for the visual tone of the film we haven't really been able to grasp what level this will come to fruition on in terms of emotional tone, but after reading several stories about the film a quote from Bernthal (Shane of the Walking Dead) keeps popping up where he refers to the film as "one of the darkest war movies ever made." He also goes on to talk about the beauty with which his character operates and how well defined he is along with how good the performances are that Ayer seems to be able to pull out of his actors. This sounds like nothing but good news and more than enough reason to believe Ayer will continue his strong work of placing emphasis on character and the dynamics between them as highlighted by unbelievable circumstances. While Ayer also wrote and directed Sabotage, an Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner coming out in April, Fury is the one to watch this year, but we'll have to wait until November 12, 2014 to do so.

Interstellar

Typically, it is easy to find that one film in the upcoming year that stands above the rest, that if you could only see one movie in the next year it would absolutely be this one. That type of thinking has come to play easily with me over the past few years as I've made this list, but this year I wondered what it might be as it didn't necessarily seem there was that one, defining film that would define the be and end all of internet hype, but then I remembered Christopher Nolan had a new film in production that would be hitting theaters in late 2014. I started doing some digging, read the synopsis and when you combine Nolan and science fiction (maybe, maybe not) I'm completely in, one hundred percent. Then, with the release of the teaser trailer a few weeks ago I might as well have left all the cards on the table because the all the parts coming together here would seemingly make a dream movie and I only hope the final product will deliver on those expectations. With a cast as expansive as one of those celebrity stuffed, holiday themed flicks Interstellar takes on the research of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne and is based around a team of space travelers who discover a wormhole which can hypothetically connect widely-separated regions of spacetime, they embark on a voyage through it to transcend the previous limitations on human space travel. It is, to say the least, an ambitious project and it was confirmed Nolan re-wrote his brother Jonathan's original draft to include an original idea in the script. This all sounded well and good, but it was when the teaser premiered and despite the lack of actual footage from the film gave us voice over from star Matthew McConaughey that seemed to indicate something has been lost in the world of making movies and Nolan intends to bring that back. That everything has become such a cog in the machine that nothing feels like a true event anymore, but that we must remember we are still inherently meant to be pioneers, to keep pushing the limits and moving forward rather than being as satisfied as we are with ourselves. For if we fail to innovate we will certainly find extinction not far behind it. Nolan has always had bigger themes at work than that of the basic story he was telling and I doubt there will be any shortage of that here, but even if that doesn't convince you to check out the film, maybe the cast roster will. Matthew McConaughey leads an ensemble that includes Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, David Oyelowo, Wes Bentley, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, Topher Grace, David Gyasi, Mackenzie Foy, Bill Irwin, Timothée Chalamet, and Matt Damon. Interstellar opens November 7, 2014.  


Transcendance- Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman star in this Wally Pfister directed film about a terminally ill scientist who downloads his body into a computer that grants him power beyond his wildest dreams. This is Pfisters directorial debut after serving as the cinematographer under Christopher Nolan on his Batman films and Inception that also gives Depp his first role without make-up since 2011's The Rum Diary, but since no one saw that does it count?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-Gary Oldman, Keri Russell and Jason Clarke pick up fifteen years after James Franco left off in this follow-up to the wildly successful Rise of the Planet of the Apes that pits survivors of the simian plague against Andy Serkis' Caesar in an all-out war. The teaser for this is strikingly chilling and I am amazed by the re-watchability of the first film and how well it holds up. Matt Reeves (Let Me In) is directing this time around as well so there is even more reason to root for this sequel being well worth our time.

Jupiter Ascending-Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne star in this Wachowski directed science fiction flick that sets itself up in a universe where humans are at the bottom of the evolutionary ladder. When a young, human woman is targeted for assassination by the Queen of the Universe it is up to Tatum's Caine to save the day and figure out why this insignificant seeming human would threaten to end the Queen's reign. I know this one isn't for everybody, but Cloud Atlas was another of my favorites in 2012 and I look forward to what the Wachowski's have to offer up next.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-One many may scoff at, but as a child of the 90's I can't help but be hopeful for this Michael Bay produced/Jonathan Liebesman directed flick that we have heard little to nothing about and have only seen set photos that depict Megan Fox as April O'Neil and Will Arnett as her cameraman fumbling behind her. There is all the reason in the world to think this movie will tank and it very well might as Bay caused an uproar when initially stating he was going to make the turtles aliens rather than mutations, but only time will tell if there is any hope for this re-boot. For now, I'm trying to stay optimistic.

Exodus-While Noah has all the momentum in the world right now, Ridley Scott is working on his own biblical epic that stars Christian Bale as Moses, Aaron Paul as Joshua, Sigourney Weaver as Tuya and Joel Edgerton as Rhamses in a film that has been labeled as an interpretation of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt as led by Moses. Scott had a misfire with the polarizing The Counselor this year, but there is always great anticipation to see what Hollywood does with treatments of Bible stories and I have a feeling this one will be no different, plus with that cast, it seems a more than promising bet that this will be one to watch.