Talk about a tough act to follow. Last year was quite the year in movies, although some of the bigger blockbusters left a lot to be desired. As I look at the landscape of cinema for 2014 there is a great deal to be excited about. Anticipation is high with what the promise 2014 can bring. Whether it is the return of some epic franchises or an acclaimed director looking to flex some creative muscle there is something for just about anyone. With that in mind I have constructed my list of the Top 30 Most Anticipated 2014 movies. In order to satisfy that Yin and Yang portion of my brain I made sure not to only mention why it is anticipated, but why it also may be a possible let down. Here’s hoping the successes out weigh the failures.
Release Date: TBD
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writers: Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay), Nicolás Giacobone (screenplay),
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone
Synopsis: A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.
The Positive: Michael Keaton’s talents have gone unused for far too long. A movie like this has the makings of letting that talent shine once again. The premise is so crazy enough it might work, and be a fitting reflection of the current craze with superheroes.
The Negative: Part of me wonders if this ground is far too worn at this point. With movies like Kick-Ass and James Gunn’s Super is there anything new to add? Keaton has not successfully carried a movie on his own since the 80’s. Is he ripe for a comeback or has his time past him bye?
29. Edge of Tomorrow
Release Date: June 6, 2014
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Jez Butterworth (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Synopsis: A soldier fighting in a war with aliens finds himself caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle, though he becomes better skilled along the way.
The Positive: I know Tom Cruise is not everyone’s favorite person. His craziness in real life tends to turn people off. Still, when he comes out with a movie I’ll be interested. No one quite does the blockbuster like him. Not to mention the mechsuits. Movies are always better with mechsuits.
The Negative: Doug Liman is very hit or miss as a director. He has given us The Bourne Identity and what I feel is a fun action movie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. However, he has also made Jumper so there is that. The trailer did not wow me as much as I was hoping for, and with so many other bigger films coming out it may get lost.
Release Date: TBD
Director: Susanne Bier
Writers: Christopher Kyle (screenplay), Ron Rash (book)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Ifans
Synopsis: In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton’s timber empire becomes complicated when it is learned that his wife, Serena, cannot bear children.
The Positive: After their work in Silver Linings Playbook it is easy to get excited to see Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence joining forces once again. Although, I have yet to read the novel all I hear about it is universal praise. Based on that it seems like quality source material for a great movie.
The Negative: Cooper and Lawrence are two actors I greatly respect, yet I can not picture them in a depression era period piece. Although I enjoyed Lawrence in American Hustle her sensibilities were far too modern at times. Screen writer Christopher Kyle last wrote for Alexander–a movie I am still trying to forget about.
27. A Most Wanted Man
Release Date: TBD
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writers: Andrew Bovell (screenplay), John le Carré (novel)
Starring: Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright, Daniel Brühl
Synopsis: A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught up in the international war on terror.
The Positive: Similar to Serena this is also based on a very acclaimed novel. Director Anton Corbijn also directed George Clooney in The American, which is a film I feel alone on liking. Also anytime Phillip Seymour Hoffman is in a movie it is worth seeing. In 2013 Daniel Brühl impressed me twice with his work in both Fifth Estate and especially Rush. So I’m looking forward to anything he does next as well.
The Negative: There is nothing in particular that has me worried, but there is also not much to go on at this point. Just speculation based on casting, and overall the cast looks quite good.
26. The Interview
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Writers: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Starring: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan
Synopsis: Dave Skylark (James Franco), host of a talk show, and producer, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen), get an interview with Kim Jong-Un, dictator of North Korea. The CIA asks them to kill Kim. They become the least qualified men to ever assassinate.
The Positive: Last year Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen gave us This Is the End, a crazy take on the end of the world genre that I eventually named the comedy of the year. (Although it was not a great year for comedy) They have also recruited James Franco for what sounds like a completely insane premise with a lot of promise.
The Negative: Going from directing your first movie to your second just a year later does make me wonder if it is too much too soon. Are Rogen and Goldberg buying into their own hype too much? The premise is intriguing, but is it too crazy even for them?
25. The Gunman
Release Date: TBD
Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Don MacPherson, Jean-Patrick Manchette (novel)
Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, and Javier Bardem
Synopsis: An international operative named Martin Terrier (Sean Penn) wants out of the game, so he can settle down with his longtime love (Jasmine Trinca). The organization he works for has other plans in mind, and he is forced to go on the run across Europe
The Positive: In 2008 director Pierre Morel surprised the world with his action-thriller Taken. The film was not only a critical and financial success it also redefined Liam Neeson’s career as a badass action star. The idea of Sean Penn in a similar role is rather fascinating. Considering the cast this has the potential of not only being the next Taken but possibly a replacement for the Bourne franchise.
The Negative: Although Pierre Morel busted out of the gates with District B13 and Taken his follow-up From Paris with Love was an absolute disaster. So much so he has not directed a movie since. The script is being penned by Don MacPherson, and the last film script he worked on was The Avengers…no not that Avengers—the 1998 Avengers starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman. So that does leave a lot to be desired.
24. Jane Got a Gun
Release Date: August 2014
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Writers: Brian Duffield, Anthony Tambakis (rewrite)
Starring: Natalie Portman, Rodrigo Santoro, Ewan McGregor
Synopsis: Jane Hammond (Portman), a good girl is married to one of the worst baddies in town. When her husband Bill (Emmerich) turns against his own gang, the vicious Bishop Boys, and returns home barely alive with eight bullets in his back, Jane decides to grab a gun and take matters into her own hands. As the relentless leader John Bishop (McGregor) gears up for revenge, Jane’s best hope for her family’s survival rests with her old love Dan Frost (Edgerton) – a gunslinger whose hatred for Bill is only slightly overshadowed by his love for Jane.
The Positive: Brian Duffield’s original script appeared on the 2011 Black List, which lists the best screenplays that have not been produced. Director Gavin O’Connor’s last film Warrior was a critic gem and landed Nick Nolte an Oscar nomination. This time he has Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor to work with so more awards could be in their future.
The Negative. The production problems have already become legendary. Michael Fassbender, Bradely Cooper, and Jude Law were all tied to the film at one point but later withdrew from production. Director Gavin O’Connor was brought on after the original director Lynne Ramsay left the project. With all this shuffling around one worries if there was actually any time to make the movie.
23. The Lego Movie
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Writers: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
Synopsis: An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.
The Positive: Watching the trailer for The Lego Movie was like watching a child’s imagination come to life. Phil Lord has quite the track record with animation based on his work on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and the cult television show Clone High. Not to mention his work as a live-action director on 21 Jump Street. With cameos from characters like Batman and Wonder Woman this might end up being the Justice League movie we have all been waiting for.
The Negative: The one worry with a movie like this is that it will become nothing more than a cameo fest, where they throw as many characters as possible at the screen just because they can. Trying to make a film based on Legos is a difficult concept. There are so many possibilities where do you even begin, and will people be satisfied with what you come up with?
22. Men Women & Children
Release Date: (Possible December 2014)
Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Chad Kultgen (novel), Jason Reitman, Erin Cresidda Wilson
Starring: Emma Thompson, Adam Sandler, Judy Greer
Synopsis: A look at the sexual frustrations that young teenagers and adults face in today’s world.
The Positive: For one it is great to see Adam Sandler get away from the world of Grown Ups and his other lackluster comedies of late, and get back to some deeper material. Jason Reitman has made some amazing movies including Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking, and Juno. Although those movies have their detractors I found them all highly enjoyable.
The Negative: Reitman has been on somewhat of downward slope as of late. Young Adult had its moments, but overall was a lesser effort for him. Although I have yet to see Labor Day all the talk behind it at this point appears to be rather negative. It is great to see Sandler taking a step outside his comfort level, but has he been there too long? Time will tell.
Release Date: December 25, 2014
Director: Angelina Jolie
Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Laura Hillenbrand (book)
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney
Synopsis: A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
The Positive: At this point anything with the Coen’s name attached is worth a gander, even if they are not directing. The Coen brothers and Angelina Jolie are not names that are synonymous with one another, but they do make for an intriguing trio. This also feels like possible amazing story that has not properly been told.
The Negative: This is Jolie’s second time in the director chair, and her first did not going very well. In the land of Blood and Honey was a letdown that had potential but never did anything with it. Maybe with a better script behind her she has a better shot at making it work.
20. Big Hero 6
Release Date: TBD
Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Writers: Don Hall,
Synopsis: A group of six superheroes are recruited by the government to protect the nation.
The Positive: When the Marvel-Disney merger occurred many dreamed of seeing a possible Marvel movie done by Pixar. This is not quite that, but based on Pixar’s track record recently it might be better this way. Big Hero 6 was honestly a team I never heard of before his movie was announced. It excites me that Disney willing to branch out to the unexpected and not just do the obvious. Director Don Hall’s last movie was the extremely unrated Winnie the Pooh in 2011. With Marvel behind him he does not have to worry about flying under the radar this time.
The Negative: The key to any animated movie is the voice cast, and up to this point no one has been casted. So without that knowledge it is hard to be completely on board. Branching out to the unexpected is exciting. It is also risky. There’s no one clamoring for a Big Hero 6 movie to be made. Getting people invested into a team and characters they never heard about will be a challenge.
19. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Scott Z. Burns, Rick Jaffa
Starring: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
Synopsis: Survivors of the simian plague trigger an all-out war between humanity and Caesar’s growing forces.
The Positive: Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the biggest surprises in the last few years. After the horrible mess that was the 2001 Tim Burton Planet of the Apes this was a franchise most gave up on. Matt Reaves is a director on the rise. Cloverfield and Let Me In are both supremely unrated, and showed he has a versatile style
The Negative: Although I enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I did not have the level of admiration for it as a lot of people did. The last twenty minutes were fantastic. Getting to that point was a chore in a few spots. Reeves may have talent, but bringing in a new director to a franchise is a challenge. Also the Apes franchise has a history of being hit and miss so looking at the past trajectory this should be a massive failure. Maybe it can buck that trend.
Release Date: December 12, 2014
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Bill Collage (screenplay), Adam Cooper(screenplay
Starring: Christian Bale, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver
Synopsis: An account of Moses’ hand in leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt.
The Positive: With Exodus Ridley Scott is getting back to familiar territory. We all know he has the talent to do the grand scale epic right. He is the man who gave us Gladiator. There is no actor hotter right now than Christian Bale, and Aaron Paul is looking to have an acting life after Breaking Bad. He certainly has the talent to do so. With a staked cast, acclaimed director, and story based on a biblical tale this has award contender written all over it.
The Negative: Ridley Scott did give us Gladiator. He also gave us Kingdom of Heaven. I tend to like the film more than most, but Robin Hood I cannot even defend. Last year The Counselor was one of my biggest disappointments of 2013 so I may be setting myself up for failure yet again. Screenwriters Bill Collage and Adam Cooper have also yet to prove themselves. So far their works include New York Minute, Accepted, and Tower Heist. Hopefully those were just stepping-stones to get to higher ground.
17. Guardians of the Galaxy
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Starring: Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana
Synopsis: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.
The Positive: Unlike Big Hero 6 the Guardians of the Galaxy are a team I am very familiar with. When I was in the thick of comics their book was relauched and I followed it closely for the first few years. Even I never thought a movie would ever be made. I mean the team is made up of a talking Raccoon and a Giant Tree. Leave it to Marvel to do the impossible. They got the right guy for the job too. James Gunn’s sensibilities fall right in line with the comic.
The Negative: On a commercial side I wonder if Marvel went one step too far with this one. People can buy a man with a magic hammer, a playboy in a metal suit, and a super soldier being frozen alive for 50 year—but can they buy this? It is a huge risk and has the makings of being a massive disaster the level of Howard the Duck. Just with less hair.
16. The Monuments Men
Release Date: February 7, 2014
Director: George Clooney
Writers: George Clooney (screenplay), Grant Heslov(screenplay)
Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon
Synopsis: An unlikely World War II platoon are tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
The Positive: If I did this list in 2013 this would have appeared on there as well. One I’m a sucker for a good World War II film, and also I have been impressed with George Clooney as a director since his very first film. I am a big of Good Night, and Good luck as it showed Clooney has the director’s eye. Looking at the cast I am still amazed they were able to fit them all into one movie.
The Negative: When a movie is pushed back there is some inherit hesitation. This was set to be released in December but for a multitude of reasons was pushed back to February. Sometimes pushing a movie back ends up being better for the movie, but sometimes it is because the final product was a letdown. Releasing it February does not help matters, because that is usually a dumping ground.