Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2014

We typically count the summer movie season as kicking off that first weekend in May which this year indicates The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has taken the spot alongside the obligatory alternative programming that looks to be Elizabeth Banks Walk of Shame though we've yet to see any real publicity for the film which only means Spidey will dominate all the more. Despite this seemingly natural kick-off and even the pre-emptive strike that was Captain America: The Winter Soldier the summer of 2014 seems to be one that will be filled with smaller, not yet publicized flicks that, as I looked through the calendar to put this list together, made me at the very least curious and hopeful that something might stand out among what isn't as crowded a summer as we've become accustomed to. Don't get me wrong, there are still super hero flicks aplenty (two of which are sequels) while others are sequels we're excited for (22 Jump Street, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) others that kind of tread the middle (Transformers, Sin City) and others we're just not sure about (Expendables 3). Needless to say, what is surprising in the line-up of big studio fare this year though are the number of "original" productions (especially comedies) that are going to have a go at it. Granted Godzilla, Malificent and Hercules are all based on popular brands, the new films themselves still have no built-in audiences and so it will be interesting to see what people respond to and what the quality of these films actually are. I want to see both Malificent and Hercules, but I'm not necessarily excited about either of them as their trailers did little to impress. On the other end of the spectrum though I have never been a fan of Godzilla yet the marketing and impressive roster of people working on the film have given me some extreme optimism that I hope is delivered upon. With a strong mix of genres, a fair amount of original material and what seems to be a promising year for comedy I look forward to the Summer movie season and give you fifteen films I can't wait to see after the jump...

Beginning with what could easily end up being the most regrettable decision in cinema history is the re-boot of the TV show I first loved as a child. As someone born in the late 80's who was allowed their adolescence in the early 90's these mutated turtles turned super heroes were what decorated my birthday parties and filled my dreams as both the animated series and live action films were everything and more. The Turtles have had a rough go of it ever since with a failed live-action TV series through the Fox Kids programming and an animated flick in 2007 that didn't amount to much while this incarnation has had nothing but detractors from the time producer Michael Bay announced he might be making the titular heroes aliens instead of mutations. With that bit of ridiculousness behind us (as well as getting past the casting of Megan Fox) we were finally delivered a teaser trailer in late March that, while not ridding fans of all their anxieties, at least reassured us it didn't look half as bad as we all expected. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans, Battle Los Angeles) and opens August 8th.

Director Scott Derrickson has produced two of the best horror films in recent memory over the past nine years only deviating from his winning formula for the truly awful re-make of The Day the Earth Stood Still in 2008. I bring this up because I don't want to pretend this is a guy who can do no wrong, but when he sticks to his guns and does what he knows best we get things like the genre-defying Exorcism of Emily Rose and the straight-up genre picture that is Sinister, but stands apart by featuring a serious and credible actor like Ethan Hawke. For his latest creep-fest Derrickson has recruited the likes of Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez and Olivia Munn to tell a story that when summed up and read on its IMDB page sounds a little ridiculous and more like the premise for an hour long cop drama on CBS Fridays, but that judgement is quickly dispersed after one look at the meditative trailer that pulls you in, gives you the chills and has you wanting to know more without really wanting to discover anything further. I always enjoy a solid horror film and there has been a strong crop growing the past few years with not only Sinister, but also both of James Wan's efforts last year as well as You're Next and the Evil Dead remake. Let's hope Derrickson keeps up his horror winning streak. Deliver Us From Evil opens July 2nd.

As I mentioned in the intro above there seems to be an abundance of original comedy coming out this summer and while last year likely had the same amount with varying degrees of success (star turn for Jason Sudeikis, nail in the coffin for Vaughn and Wilson) I am always quick to defend the genre as one of my favorites. It stems from youthful ignorance and gleeful, care-free summer days that summer comedies will always have a special place in my heart and that is while Neighbors isn't the one I'm most looking forward to (we also have Tammy, The Trip to Italy, Blended, Chef, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Think Like a Man Too, Sex Tape and Let's Be Cops) it is pretty damn close and were it not for a certain sequel would likely be one of my most anticipated of the year. I was happy to welcome Seth Rogen and his crew back into good graces last year after This is the End and while I was pretty close to not being able to stand That Awkward Moment earlier this year I'm really hoping Zac Efron catches a break with this one and has made himself part of a comedy that stands the test of time and lives on for years to come. Neighbors is directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) and opens May 9th.

With no Pixar and no Disney studio releases on the slate for this summer (well, except Planes: Fire and Recue, but who's counting that, really?) it is already destined to be the summer of Hiccup and Toothless. I was taken by surprise, to say the least, when I walked into a theater on a rainy Friday night four years ago and experienced what I expected to be along the lines of another Monsters Vs. Aliens or Over the Hedge, but was instead treated to more sophisticated storytelling that meshed perfectly with a visual style all its own and the best animation Dreamworks had offered up to that point. With the sequel coming much later than I would have ever expected it seems the anticipation has only grown and while it has taken longer than I would have liked it seems perfectly staged to get the recognition and box office run it deserves as it literally will have zero competition the entire season. Jay Baruchel and the entire crew are back and while the sequel will take place in real time all these years later I can only hope that what has been created lives up to the hype the wait has caused. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is directed by Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon) and opens June 13th.

Speaking of giant lizards, we move on the film that had you told me a year ago I would have never expected to have on a list like this. I've never been a fan of Godzilla, I just didn't see the appeal in it and have never understood the fascination with why a giant beast tearing through cities was cause for such fuss or how in the world it became a cultural icon. The origin story of Godzilla is naturally more intriguing than anything else I've seen on the monster (most of which comes from the 1998 Matthew Broderick version) as he was originally created as a metaphor for nuclear weapons after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the Lucky Dragon 5 incident were still fresh on the minds of the Japanese population when Godzilla first appeared in 1954. All of this to say I wasn't exactly jumping for joy when I heard the news another version would be coming to the big screen, but with every trailer and every piece of promotional art this latest incarnation of the King of the Monsters can't help but look more and more intriguing. With only a small, micro-budgeted indie flick called Monsters to his name director Gareth Edwards has seemingly went straight from high school to the pros and if everything turns out to be as promising as it seems it looks like he will have one hell of a rookie season in the arena of big budget summer tentpoles. The cast, headed up by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen (or Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch) isn't too bad either. Godzilla opens May 16th.

Last year Chadwick Boseman portrayed Jackie Robinson with much success and to great acclaim in 42, but this year the young up and coming actor has taken on the role of a very different personality in a completely different kind of biopic as he depicts the life and times of the late Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. I love films like this as I love music as much as I love movies in general and to see any legends life brought to the screen and realized as gloriously as the first trailer hints it has been is sure to be a win in some regard. The negative aspect of musical biopics typically being they all follow the same pattern in that we get the rise, the unavoidable fall and the redeeming conclusion that gives way to a satisfactory life before the inevitable death. Brown's actual life is so interesting though, coming from South Carolina in extreme poverty to essentially revolutionizing certain musical stylings and influencing countless performers that it would almost be impossible to make a non-interesting. It doesn't hurt either that this is director Tate Taylor's follow-up to his critical and commercial hit The Help and that he's again enlisted Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer along with Dan Aykroyd, Craig Robinson and Jill Scott as part of the ensemble cast. Get On Up opens August 1st.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a movie that never should have worked, but is now one of those films I can pop in my blu-ray player at any given time and enjoy it with no reason to become bored or tired of the film. It was a surprise hit a few years ago and it garnered this status not because it had a built in audience (the last attempt to re-boot Planet of the Apes was Tim Burton's failed 2001 re-make) or because it featured a larger than life movie star that drew in the spectators (say what you will, but James Franco cannot open a film yet his star plus this kind of concept helped the credibility factor), but rather because it was an all-around solid film. It was both entertaining and smart, it had action it had suspense and it had an interesting story that viewers became invested in. It was as if Rupert Wyatt made a film he could truly be proud of and the studio only realized with this product that a good movie could equal mass success and so they hit the ground running and have at least seemed to continue that trend with the fifteen-year later sequel even if Wyatt chose not to return to the directors chair. With the likes of Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell and a slew of other strong cast members signing up to be survivors of the Simian plague that wage war against Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his growing forces I can't wait to see where this new set of films takes us. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) and opens July 11th.

With 21 Jump Street making my top 10 of 2012 list and this sequel easily making my most anticipated for 2014 it is with great joy that I anticipate this seemingly well thought-out follow-up to the surprise hit that solidified Channing Tatum's star. If you loved the first film you may as well sign yourself up for this one because it looks to be more of the same, but instead of latching onto the ever-evolving culture of high school our protagonists Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) have entered the world of college which worried me they may repeat many of the beats from the first film just with a different environment (a la The Hangover Part II) but hearing Hill talk about how this film will be more a subversion of sequels than a subversion of college movies has me really excited and trusting in this creative team. It is nice to see Ice Cube returning as Captain Dickson as he was one of my favorite parts from the first film while the trailers also gives away cameo appearances from Rob Riggle and Dave Franco. The fact directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie) decided to come back to this over what I assume were plenty of other offers also makes me trust they had good reason to do so and that we will see that reasoning on full display when 22 Jump Street opens June 13th.

I hate to always clump the three or so super hero movies that come out in a given summer together as it feels slightly like I'm cheating, but given the fact I am actually excited about the possibilities each of these individual films hold plus the fact they each belong to Marvel (in some sense of the word anyway) and each offer a new path for the given franchise I feel they are cohesive enough that I can group them into this runner-up spot and not feel bad about not taking up three different spots for each of them. All of that said, I am probably looking forward to Bryan Singer's return to the X-Men franchise the most with what is essentially the Fast Five of X-Men flicks in Days of Future Past. I say this because Singer's 2000 X-Men essentially kicked off this whole super hero movie trend that continues today and that he has been brought back to bring together the continuity from each of the past films is pretty ambitious and something that hopefully pays off when it opens May 23rd. A close second is the second offering from Marvel studios this year who will no doubt still be riding high from The Winter Soldier and will have just released it on blu-ray with a new one shot by the time Guardians of the Galaxy opens on August 1st. Guardians is yet another ambitious project and looks to deviate from the typical Marvel Studios fare as it gets even more "out there" than the Thor films, but if anything seems to be a hell of a lot of fun and with a cast that includes Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Benincio Del Toro and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper under the direction of James Gunn (Slither, Super) I am nothing but pumped to see how this turns out. Finally, we have The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which has had so many trailers and so many sneak peeks that by the time the film comes out many of us will feel we've seen it already. I hate this as Spidey was my favorite super-hero growing up and I was one of the few who favored Marc Webb's reboot two years ago, but am hoping he doesn't allow only his second film in the series to make the same mistakes Sam Raimi's third outing did. I trust in Webb's direction and Columbia's idea to create their own cinematic universe with the Sinister Six, but lets hope they didn't jump the gun and put all their tricks in one bag. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kicks off the summer movie season on May 2nd.

If you would have told me a few years ago Channing Tatum would be at the heart of two of my most anticipated films for the summer movie season of 2014 and more so that he would be involved with three of my most anticipated of the year I would have straight-up called your ass a liar. For real though, prior to 2012 the guys biggest hit was probably GI Joe (though his best was arguably Stop-Loss and his cameo in Public Enemies at least showed where his mind was at) but then 2012 happened and so did 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike and a slew of supporting bits in Side Effects, This is the End and the GI Joe sequel, but while his lone action starrer White House Down flopped last summer the Wachowski's are hoping the tables will turn for their original offering this year. Written, produced and directed by the sibling duo that created one of the most awe-inspiring films of 2012 in Cloud Atlas they return with what I at first was hesitant to jump into despite my love for Atlas. With the second trailer for the film debuting just a few weeks ago though I was completely drawn in by the scope and the scale with which the story seems to be operating. The visuals, captured by cinematographer John Toll (who has worked with Terrence Malick as well as on Cloud Atlas), are breathtaking and the expansive cast includes a leading performance from a more subdued Mila Kunis as well as featuring Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne (in a scenery chewing performance it seems), Douglas Booth, Terry Gilliam, James D'Arcy and Doona Bae. I'm a huge fan when it comes to science fiction and this looks to be as outlandish and ridiculous as I could imagine while exploring the larger implications of other life among the stars. "Your earth is a very small part of a very large industry." Jupiter Ascending opens July 18th.

Transformers: Age of Extinction - Though it seems clear the Transformers franchise has passed its prime it also isn't fair to say there isn't an appetite for these films still out there among a massive amount of fans, but I wonder if they, like many cinema lovers, would like to see someone besides Michael Bay take a shot at the films. This doesn't seem to be an option though as Bay (who I've never minded as much as most) has returned to the series and brought Pain & Gain collaborator Mark Wahlberg with him to give this re-boot some serious movie star power. I'm not overly optimistic, but I'm excited to see where this thing goes. Opens June 27th.

Edge of Tomorrow - If it weren't for the existence of my number one pick this summer Tom Cruise's latest sci-fi vehicle would have likely have made my top ten. Though I wish the studio would have stuck with the much less forgettable, original title of All You Need is Kill I doubt that would have aligned well with the PG-13 rating and mass crowds they hope to pull in as the films only competition will be the YA adaptation The Fault in Our Stars which will obviously have a completely different target audience. Cruise has been largely pardoned for his personal antics and still maintains a reputation of making quality films so here's hoping this team-up with director Doug Liman and co-star Emily Blunt proves to be something truly innovative and not just a futuristic Groundhog Day. Opens June 6th.

The Fault in Our Stars - I've yet to read John Green's novel from which this cancer-stricken love story is based as I'm still in the middle of the trilogy that Shailene Woodley is also fronting in theaters right now, but I plan to get around to it before the adaptation comes to screens this summer. This is not typical summer blockbuster fare, but will provide some great alternative programming for those not in the young to mid-20's male demographic and I really think this has the potential to become the sleeper hit of the season. Woodley is on a winning streak, Ansel Elgort is not known, but is recognizable from the Carrie re-make and Divergent and this seems to have a kind of emotional quality that will be hard to find elsewhere. Opens June 6th.

A Million Ways to Die in the West - I've said time and time again that I've never been a huge fan of Seth McFarlane, but am always able to admit it is pretty much impossible not to love Ted if you love crude comedies and so I have to at least be somewhat interested in what the writer/actor/director does next. In his first live action starring role the comedian has seemed to satirize both the western as a film genre as much as the time period in general, but while some of the jokes (even in the red band trailer) fall a little flat it seems the complete product might actually offer a raucous good time and in attracting the caliber of cast he has here there are sure to be some kind of sparks flying. Opens May 30th.

I Origins - When Brit Marling decides to take on a project by one of her director friends we typically get an interesting premise with thought provoking ideas that create an aura around the film that is hard to ignore. This year she re-teams with Another Earth director Mike Cahill after doing back to back features with Zal Batmanglij for a feature he wrote solely on his own that concerns itself with a molecular biologist and his partner uncovering evidence that could fundamentally change society as we know it. With, again, that extremely interesting premise in place and a cast that places unappreciated actor Michael Pitt in the lead role with Marling, Steven Yeun and William Mapother co-starring. It's certainly a hard film to describe and even sum up why I'm excited for it, but its credentials and sci-fi tendencies alone had me at hello. Opens July 18th.

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