Upcoming Film Year of 2014 Highlights - A Year of Blockbusters

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  • 1. Upcoming Film Year of 2014 Highlights - A Year of Blockbusters The Grand Budapest Hotel (3.7) Returning to screens quickly after the surprise success of his 2012 charmer, "Moonrise Kingdom," writer/director Wes Anderson gathers his largest, most star-studded ensemble to date for this whimsical comedy set in an alt-universe 1920's Europe. Ralph Fiennes makes a rare comedic turn, joined by Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Willem Dafoe (making up only a small portion of this enormous cast). Expect an exquisite production design, crisp timing, and traditional Anderson pithiness. Aspect ratio mischief is also on the menu. Divergent (3.21) Following a template established by "The Hunger Games," "Divergent" is the latest franchise contender inspired by young adult literature. Boasting thespian participation from buzzy star Shailene Woodley and powerhouse Kate Winslet, a post-apocalyptic fantasy playground of good vs. evil, and the promise of romantic entanglements that might carry over three chapters of author Veronica Roth's trilogy, and "Divergent" appears to carry all the ingredients other aspiring blockbusters have been missing. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4.4) Although one of the lower grossing movies to emerge from the Marvel Comics cinematic universe, 2011's "Captain America" achieved the impossible by making this complicated character viable as a big screen hero for a global audience. Cap's time with "The Avengers" didn't hurt his Q Score either. With "The Winter Soldier," Marvel hopes to introduce more of a mystery element to the series, trusting a little intrigue, paranoia, and a supporting turn from Robert Redford will lure ticket buyers now certain of the company's treatment of the patriotic
  • 2. hero. Godzilla (5.16) The star of beloved monster movies and a pop culture icon, Godzilla hasn't lived up to his potential in recent decades, while the 1998 Roland Emmerich reboot successfully destroyed the promise of an Americanized lizard stomp. Director Gareth Edwards looks to restore a little rage for the character, assembling a harsh tone of destruction and an able supporting cast to bring Godzilla back with a bang. Also in the film's favor is a dynamite theatrical teaser trailer, triumphantly selling the scope and severity of this ambitious rebirth. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (5.2) Deciding to reboot the Spider-Man series only a handful of years after director Sam Raimi finished his stint with the comic book hero, Sony's gamble paid off in a major way. Perhaps enthusiasm for director Marc Webb's first chapter was lacking, but box office was booming, paving the way for this hastily assembled sequel, debuting less than two years after the release of the original. Taking a page from "The Avengers" handbook, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" promises massive action and a league of baddies, bending the franchise toward a lucrative future of spin-offs and follow-ups.
  • 3. X-Men: Days of Future Past (5.23) To mark his return to the X-Men franchise after a decade away, director Bryan Singer has decided to throw a party, inviting every member of the comic book community that's legally possible. Mixing timelines, sequel ensembles, and hoping to satisfy fans, Singer pulls out all the stops for "X-Men: Days of Future Past," weaving an intricate story of higher purpose and global disaster while highlighting an amazing array of mutant faces. The big ticket for Memorial Day weekend, "Days of Future Past" looks to up the ante for superhero movies. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (6.13) A continuation of the 2010 film (one of the year's best), "How to Train Your Dragon 2" arrives with lofty franchise plans from Dreamworks Animation, who hope to turn the concept into a four-movie arc, trusting the charm and imagination of the original film will carry far. It seems a safe bet, but to secure audience attention, the production has hired Cate Blanchett to voice a vital role in the sequel, and they've aged up the characters to lend the follow-up a more adult tone. Transformers: Age of Extinction (6.27)
  • 4. The recent Super Bowl television spot for "Transformers: Age of Extinction" showcased a sword-wielding Optimus Prime riding atop Dinobot Grimlock. I'm not sure the studio has to invest in any additional marketing for this super-sized sequel. Shedding Shia LeBeouf for Mark Wahlberg might help with the marquee value, but the franchise's fans aren't showing up in droves to see, ew, actors. They want hardcore transforming robot action. If director Michael Bay can keep his attention away from awful actresses and Decepticon testicles, there might be something to embrace here. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7.11) I don't think anyone was expecting much out of 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but when it displayed considerable competence, audiences came out in droves to see it. Reviving the "Apes" legacy with a CGI take on a primate uprising, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" continues the journey toward a potentially Heston-y future, offering audiences a glimpse of a futureworld where a truce between man and ape is about to end. This sequel promises big action, Gary Oldman instead of James Franco, post-apocalyptic expanse, and a love interest for hairy star Caesar. Jupiter Ascending (7.18) After the flawed but fascinating bomb, "Cloud Atlas," the Wachowski Siblings return to their slam-bang roots with "Jupiter Ascending," an epic actioner starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. While few expect another "Matrix," it's comforting to see the filmmaking duo feel around a fantasy playground again, bending a big budget with visions of genetically modified warriors and interplanetary shenanigans, sold with eye-crossing visuals.
  • 5. Guardians of the Galaxy (8.1) Marvel has enjoyed quite a run with smash features based on their most popular characters. "Guardians of the Galaxy" pushes the company into an intriguing creative direction, trying to build excitement for a movie centered on characters few outside the hobby have even heard about. Director James Gunn is an odd choice to helm this summertime event, but his askew sense of humor seems fitting to bring this unusual team of misfit superheroes to life. Casting appears inspired and a tease of tone in "Thor: The Dark World" was intriguing, making this one of the larger question marks of the film year. The Expendables 3 (8.15) After experiencing a rough year at the box office, Sylvester Stallone returns to the business of surefire hits with "The Expendables 3," the next installment in the all-star mercenary saga. As the clich goes, the boys are back in town, and they've brought Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Antonio Banderas along to help raise a little hell. The first two installments were big dumb fun, and this sequel suggests more of the same, albeit with a stuffed frame of middle-aged tough guys gleefully chewing the scenery.
  • 6. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (8.22) It's hard to believe it's almost been a full decade since the release of the Robert Rodriquez/Frank Miller collaboration, "Sin City." For years, a sequel was rumored, promised, and teased, but now the time has come. Wading into the noir-scented toxic waste pit is a mix of new and old characters out to prove themselves particularly durable in this ultraviolent world. Rodriguez has been frighteningly hit and miss in recent years, but here's hoping a return to one of his major successes restores some of his lost directorial mojo. Jane Got a Gun (8.29) Emerging from one of the most troubled productions in recent history, the western "Jane Got a Gun" merely has to be in focus at this point to wow audiences. Hit with directorial abandonment and a revolving door of actors, the picture, starring Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor, has seen its fair share of turmoil. It'll be interesting to see if director Gavin O'Connor is able to piece together anything of merit, though, considering the distinction of the professionals involved, perhaps it's too early to doubt the whole endeavor. Gone Girl (10.3) Gillian Flynn's best seller comes to the screen courtesy of director David Fincher, who's promised a slight reworking of the source material to maintain surprise for fans of the novel. While Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike take the lead roles, Tyler Perry pops up in a supporting part, making his appearance perhaps the most fascinating element about this production, displaying Fincher's mischievous side in full. Dumb and Dumber To (11.14) It's been two decades since Harry and Lloyd last flopped around on the big screen. They were missed. Feeling nostalgic and in need of a hit film, the Farrelly Brothers have dreamed up an
  • 7. all-new misadventure for Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey, unleashing an older but not necessarily wiser pair on a collection of hapless victims. The budget and expectations are suspiciously low for this long overdue follow-up, though something tells me there's going to be more demand for "To" than detractors are suggesting. EVERYBODY NOW: Mock! Interstellar (11.7) Christopher Nolan returns to screens with this secretive (of course) sci-fi project. After putting Batman to bed with "The Dark Knight Rises," Nolan takes on the entire universe for his first post-superhero project, bringing Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain along for the ride. Employing IMAX cinematography and immense scientific ideas, "Interstellar" aims big and will likely find its place as another Nolan brain-tickler with gargantuan production achievements. Mercifully, the helmer is playing this one close to the chest. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (11.21) After proving its staying power with last holiday's "Catching Fire," "The Hunger Games" takes a tentative step toward a grand finale, splitting up the trilogy closer into two pictures for maximum profit. What was once a simple contest of death has turned into all-out war, with champ Katniss out to make the evil Capitol pay for all its crimes against humanity. Francis Lawrence returns as director, facing a difficult editorial task with the recent death of co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, according to reports, still had a small chunk of filming left to complete on the two movies.
  • 8. Annie (12.19) Move over, Broadway, here comes Jay-Z. The mogul and part-time rap star takes the reins of this update, which stars Quvenzhane Wallis as the titular orphan, while Jamie Foxx takes a Daddy Warbucks-style role, and Cameron Diaz portrays Miss Hannigan. Jay-Z songs will weave throughout established material, giving the update a bass-heavy curve it's never experienced before. The big holiday family movie of 2014, it's going to be interesting to see if audiences welcome this reimagining into their hearts. The Hobbit: There and Back Again (12.17) Peter Jackson's marathon take on J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" draws to a close this December, staging a major showdown with dragon Smaug before launching into unknown terrain concerning the author's appendices, meant to give fans a major cool down period before saying farewell to Middle-earth forever (at least until the Jay-Z reboot in 2025). Surprisingly little is known about the picture outside a few key details. Perhaps this is due to fear of franchise fatigue. Perhaps they're making this one up as they go. Either way, Jackson's herculean cinematic effort finally comes to an end.
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