Russ’ Most Anticipated Films of 2014

The Raid 2 Berandal

The first page was my own primary personal set of picks as things stand now, but there’s a lot more to consider. I mentioned that it would be easy to make a list culled just from Sundance, and so here’s one:

  • The Raid 2 (You’ve seen the trailer, yes?)
  • 20,000 Days on Earth (The Nick Cave documentary.)
  • The Guest (From the You’re Next filmmakers.)
  • Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (Rinko Kikuchi stars in a story inspired by a real life story that was inspired by Fargo.)
  • Frank (A true tale of weird musicians, with Michael Fassbender as a guy who wears a giant fake head.)
  • A Most Wanted Man (The new film from Anton Corbijn.)
  • Locke (The one-man show featuring Tom Hardy.)
  • The Overnighters (Doc about workers who flooded to small North Dakota town for oil field jobs, and the pastor who ministered to them.)
  • Finding Fela (Alex Gibney’s doc about the afrobeat pioneer.)
  • Mr leos caraX (Documentary about Holy Motors director Leos Carax.)

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2014 will have its own share of prestige pictures and blockbusters, and a few of those seem worthy of consideration. Foxcatcher, from Moneyball director Bennett Miller, puts Steve Carell in the shoes of a real-life murderer. Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s new directorial effort, shot by Roger Deakins, follows the true story of a WWII hero; George Clooney assembles a cast that is somewhere between Ocean’s Eleven and Moonrise Kingdom for his own serio-comedic WWII tale, The Monuments Men. And David Fincher has recruited Ben Affleck for his new film Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel, while Sarah’s Key director Gilles Paquet-Brenner directs Charlize Theron, Corey Stoll, Tye SheridanChloe Grace Moretz, Nicolas Hoult, and Christina Hendricks in another Flynn adaptation, Dark Places.

Jane Got a Gun has had a particularly rocky path to the screen, but now let’s just concentrate on the fact that it is a revenge western with a female lead from Warrior director Gavin O’Connor. And David Ayer‘s WWII tank squad movie Fury (or whatever the title will end up being) could be the capper on a 2014 set of war pictures. We’ll also see Enemy, from the Prisoners team of Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal, which was lauded as the pair’s better film after festival debuts for both last fall. And Tim Burton goes back to slightly smaller pictures with Big Eyes, starring Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams painter Margaret Keane and her husband, scripted by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood).

Bridging the prestige and blockbuster camps, I’m less convinced by the trailer for Wally Pfister‘s Transcendence than I’d like to be, and the new film from Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending, also has to do more work to convince me that it will really work. I’d love to be proven wrong, but at this point its only the participants in each film, rather than what we’ve seen as the fruit of their labors, that has me ready for line up. It’s still early for each film, however, and we may get more convincing looks in the next couple months. Also landing in the “not quite convinced but still hopeful” camp are films like X-Men: Days of Future Past, RoboCop, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

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On the blockbuster side, the primary extra inclusion has to be Gareth EdwardsGodzilla. In 1998 the Roland Emmerich Godzilla was a special moment for me; it was the point where I stopped believing in film marketing, and where the shine really came off the blockbuster. The footage we’ve seen from this Godzilla, both at Comic Con last year and in the recent trailer, suggests that Edwards and everyone supporting him are all on the same page, and that it is the right page.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the other half of Marvel’s year of expansion, as the superhero movie becomes a political thriller. I’ve said since they were first mentioned for the gig that the Russo Brothers seemed like a good choice to direct, and everything I’ve seen from the film suggests Kevin Feige made the right call in hiring them. This one isn’t as great a gamble as Guardians of the Galaxy, but if it succeeds, Marvel’s effort to make superhero movies that are also satisfying as other genre entries could be the thing that keeps superhero movies interesting. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has the potential to be a great popcorn movie, and Disney’s Big Hero 6 represents the Mouse taking its own chances with a minor Marvel property. The Boxtrolls is the new film from stop-motion animation revolutionaries Laika, and the work the company is doing with more advanced puppet, costume, and set creation is just spectacular.

There’s a lot to learn about what the end of the year will bring, and the crop of films that show up for Cannes, Venice and Toronto will all have the potential to rewrite any “most anticipated” list. Will The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius score with The Search? Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev may show up in Cannes with Leviafan, and the fall fest schedule will probably see The Duke of Burgundy, from Berberian Sound Studio director Peter Strickland, produced by Ben Wheatley. We’ll follow up as those titles and more are revealed in detail.

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