Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2014

I never much consider it, but I don't know that I could make a list of ten of my favorite films at this point in the year yet. I don't know if there have been enough, but I imagine I could pull some of those I really enjoyed but didn't necessarily come to think of as exceptional onto the list and be satisfied. I say this because as I began to put together my most anticipated list for this fall and winter I began to realize that if my hopes and excitement for each of these films pays off in the way I hope it does, this could just as well be a list of my favorite films of the year. That may seem a simple conclusion to draw given these are the ten films I'm most excited to see the remainder of the year, but what I mean to say is that I think the following films I'm most excited about have the potential to surpass anything I've already seen this year. Having done this a few years now though it becomes apparent there will always be a few of these films that ultimately don't move you or live up to the ambition their early marketing suggested. It always feels like a good majority of these films are still largely mysteries despite the fact the longest length of time between now and the last release on the list is four months.

I enjoy the mystery, don't get me wrong, especially when coming out of the mass marketing exercise that is the summer movie season which inevitably always ends up leaving very few satisfying experiences in its wake. Though I will say we've seemed to have had a better summer than usual in terms of big Hollywood releases (I was in the minority on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as I really loved it, X-Men: Days of Future Past was as good as I'd hoped for if not great and Guardians fired on all cylinders while Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes were pieces of finely tuned entertainment with serious thought behind them. How To Train Your Dragon 2 was gorgeous and under appreciated as was Deliver Us From Evil, while smaller flicks like The Fault in Our Stars and Neighbors were both big hits and solid films to boot). I'm sure I'm leaving some out (I'm already recalling my desire to watch 22 Jump Street again and again) but you get the point. Transitioning to the fall we approach different kinds of films though and while there is always one or two that seem to be pre-destined for Oscar glory I don't see a clear contender this year, making this collection of releases all the more engaging and making me all the more excited to see them.

A Most Violent Year (11/12) kicks off the list mainly because it stars Jessica Chastain. Chastain lit up the world in 2011 and 2012 after delivering in Take Shelter, Tree of Life, The Help, Lawless and then culminating it all with Zero Dark Thirty where she was robbed of the Best Actress Oscar (sorry J-Law, but it's true). While she was quiet for much of 2013 and so far this year the actress is back in full swing this fall by appearing in four releases that are all sure to make an impression. The only release of which I haven't covered in some form or fashion in this post is Miss Julie which will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival later this month and co-stars Colin Farrell. What gives A Most Violent Year the upper hand though is the fact it is director J.C. Chandor's third feature after Margin Call and All is Lost. With a wonderful cast that also includes Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Alfred Molina, and David Oyelowo the film is being classified as a thriller set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically one of the most violent years in the city’s history. We follow the lives of an immigrant (Isaac) and his wife (Chastain) as they try to expand their business and capitalize on opportunities as the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they've built.

Inherent Vice (12/12) may very well be higher on this list if I knew more about it or if we'd received any kind of trailer by now, but besides the fact that the film will be the centerpiece gala at the New York Film Festival where it will have its world premiere we don't know much. Despite this glaring fact it was always going to be an intriguing title due to the fact it is the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson has long been a critical darling who makes films for himself with little regard for public perception. That doesn't mean I don't think the guy can take constructive criticism, the fact he is returning to adapting a work of literature rather than penning an original screenplay (something he's only done once before with There Will Be Blood) shows some kind of need to progress and mix things up, but what I AM saying is the guy has a very singular point of view and style which in turn makes his films exciting. He re-teams here with Joaquin Phoenix after The Master while also featuring an insane supporting cast that includes Josh Brolan, Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolph, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Eric Roberts, Michael K. Williams, Jillian Bell, Martin Short and Sasha Pieterse. We can only hope for great things.

Whiplash (10/23) made a name for itself after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January of this year where it received the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition. It went from Sundance to Canne and will now be making an appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival before it lands in theaters on November 13. Starring Miles Teller, who seems to be making more and more the right choices to both keep him credible and relevant in the mainstream, as a young musician struggling for greatness in a ruthless instructors well-regarded orchestra. If you've seen the trailer for the film you understand this is a movie of performances with the character work and psyche at the forefront. I was curious about the film given its early praise and amount of accolades, but after getting a look at the trailer it is clear why and how this premise could be so engaging. As the ruthless instructor J.K. Simmons looks to give the performance of a lifetime as he throws equipment and slaps his pupils in order to "push people beyond what's expected of them" as he likes to tell others to reassure himself of his methods. This is one of those films where I don't feel I know exactly where they'll go with the central idea, but also one that I can't wait to see unfold.

Nightcrawler (10/31) is the flick Jake Gyllenhaal dropped out of Into the Woods for so naturally it will be interesting to see how things plays out and if his choice was justified in the end. This is also the movie the actor lost a significant amount of weight for and as of right now I'm unsure of how his characters frail structure will be significant. What makes me more excited for this film more than anything though is the fact Gyllenhaal is in it. Over the past few years the guy has really been delivering not only in the types of movies he's choosing, but in the performances he is delivering. After Brokeback Mountain almost ten years ago when the actor was right on the cusp of his mid-twenties he began to transition to the more high-minded material and started paying attention to the filmmakers we was working with. Since, he has delivered in Zodiac, Brothers, Source Code, End of Watch and his double header with Denis Villeneuve that included Prisoners and Enemy both of which are rather exceptional films. If he continues on any kind of streak we can seemingly hope for something interesting and maybe even innovating from this constantly growing actors latest.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 (11/21) has the chance to go down as the biggest film of the year. With only Transformers: Age of Extinction barely (and controversially) making the $100 million weekend this year and last fall's Catching Fire breaking November records with its nearly $160 million opening it seems the only conclusion is that Katniss will reign supreme. An interesting aspect is how much the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman will effect outside audience interest as this two-part conclusion will be his final screen appearance, though he doesn't play a role as large as say Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. It also doesn't hurt that the second film in the series was a vast improvement over the first, which is saying a lot because the first was really well-received. We simply didn't know how great things could be until they were given to us and new director Francis Lawrence truly delivered in that second installment while returning to shoot both parts of the Mockingjay story. It has become a bit cliché to break that final book into two films and we all know why the studios are really doing it, but it doesn't bother me as much they've decided to go that route with The Hunger Games because I genuinely enjoy the characters and the politics of this world and am more than anxious to see this saga continue.

Fury (10/17) is the story of a tank platoon in late-war Germany in 1945 just as World War II is coming to an end. That is the basic set-up for this non-looking Oscar bait film that could prove to be a real triumph if it turns out to be as good as the trailers and its credentials suggest. More specifically, this is seemingly a character study of five individuals in a set of extreme circumstances that will contain a fair amount of action. Like Gyllenhaal but more seasoned, Brad Pitt is one of those actors who simply does quality by crafting high-minded entertainment. It has always been clear the guy is a director's actor-just look through his filmography since his big break: you have Redford, Ridley and Tony Scott, Ed Zwick, Terry Gilliam, Barry Levinson, Guy Ritchie, Gore Verbinski, Steven Soderbergh, Wolfgang Petersen, Alejandro González Iñárritu, both of Andrew Dominik's works, The Coens, his collective works with Fincher, Tarantino, Bennett Miller and of course Malick. In essence, pretty much every influential director over the past three decades and after End of Watch he must have seen it necessary to work with David Ayer. In truth, Ayer is hit or miss though in both his writing and directing, so let us simply hope he's on his A-game with the crew he's assembled for this one.

Foxcatcher (11/14) was expected to hit theaters last year, but Sony Classics seems to have made a wise decision in postponing the film in what was already a crowded awards season. There are many reasons to look forward to this film as not only has director Bennett 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. Based on the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark (Channing 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. For me, the greatest appeal here is seeing Carell in such 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. This will also likely serve as an Oscar nomination for Tatum in a year that has already seen a great amount of success.

Gone Girl (10/3) is somewhat of an oddball in that it has all the makings of a strong Oscar-contender, but again doesn't seem to necessarily have those kinds of ambitions. I think this rings true simply because director David Fincher doesn't give a shit about awards and certainly doesn't look to them for validation of his work. An adaptation of the popular Gillian Flynn novel, I haven't read much into the plot besides the fact it centers on the disappearance of a man's wife and the resulting investigation following that naturally points fingers towards Affleck's husband character. 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 while also sounding strikingly like a Lifetime original. 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 anytime this guy involves himself in something I am more than eager to see what the outcome will be.

Birdman (10/11) is the true out-of-left-field pick this year it seems. When the first trailer premiered for the latest from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams) with its clear visual flair and hints of dark comedy it made serious waves. The casting of Michael Keaton as an actor once known for starring in multiple blockbusters as the titular superhero is genius. Not only does it look extremely engaging and effortlessly cool, but with Iñárritu behind the camera and a collaborator on the screenplay we are also promised an insightful look at the psyche of a man who once had it all, what it means to have it all (perceptively) and what lengths are worth going to in order to re-claim that type of glory and adoration. How seriously can one be taken as a man in costume? That Iñárritu has also enlisted a massively talented cast featuring Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Ryan doesn't hurt things either. While, again, this doesn't seem the kind of film that might typically garner awards attention it has certainly positioned itself as one to watch and I can only hope its glorious teaser trailer is an inkling of what we are in for with the full feature.

Interstellar (11/7) 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. These travelers embark on a voyage to transcend the previous limitations on human space travel. It is, to say the very least, an ambitious project and coming from director Christopher Nolan it is easily the biggest event film of the year for me. When the teaser premiered last December the voice over from star Matthew McConaughey indicated that something has been lost not only in our own world, but in the world of making movies and Nolan intends to bring that back. That everything has become such a cog in the machine and that nothing feels like a true event anymore is concerning. Nolan reminds us 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. This type of mentality can only mean Nolan intends Interstellar to be as innovative as possible while delivery entertainment on a massive, thought-provoking scale. With all we've seen I can't imagine anyone convincing me Nolan doesn't finally deserve some Academy attention come February.

10 More I Can't Wait For...

St. Vincent (10/24) Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts star in this story about a young boy whose parents just divorced and finds an unlikely friend and mentor in the misanthropic, bawdy, hedonistic, war veteran who lives next door.

The Judge (10/10) Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall and Vera Farminga star in director David Dobkin's dramatic turn that follows big city lawyer Hank Palmer as he returns to his childhood home where his father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

Exodus: Gods and Kings (12/12) Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton lead this account of Moses' hand in leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt from director Ridley Scott.

Dear White People (10/17) Director Justin Simien's feature film debut is a satire that follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular African American-themed party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in post-racial America while weaving a universal story of forging one's unique path in the world.

Unbroken (12/25) Angelina Jolie directs this chronicling of the life of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II. Jai Courtney, Jack O'Connell, Garrett Hedlund and Domhnall Gleeson star.

Tusk (9/19) Kevin Smith writes and directs this horror/comedy about a man who is captured by a maniac and tortured, physically and mentally, into becoming a walrus. Justin Long leads a cast that also includes Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (9/12) Director Ned Benson leads a cast that includes Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Viola Davis, William Hurt and Bill Hader as they chronicle one couple's story in the midst of trying to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

Horrible Bosses 2 (11/26) Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day return in this sequel to their 2011 smash that has Dale, Kurt and Nick starting their own business where things inexplicably don't go as planned because of a slick investor, prompting the trio to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme.

Big Eyes (12/25) Tim Burton retreads from the more fantastical realms of his brand to deliver the true story of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), her phenomenal success in the 1950's, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband (Christoph Waltz), who claimed credit for her works in the 1960's.

Into the Woods (12/25) Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and James Corden star in Rob Marshall's adaptation of the popular stage play that follows a witch who conspires to teach important lessons to various characters of popular children's stories including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel.