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.
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
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.
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
Transformers: Age of Extinction (6.27)
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.
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.
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
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！
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
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.
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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