Coming off of the fantastic year in film of 2013, now is the time for me to look ahead to some of my most highly anticipated films of 2014. The year itself has already turned in some titles worthy of notice, even in such a dumping ground as terrible as February (which includes THREE remakes), the fact that we’ve already got a movie as excellent as The Lego Movie (which I recommend everyone go see) is a very encouraging sign. 2014 has potential that it could even best last year, and so, having found some time to sit down and properly put my thoughts together, I give you my list of my top ten most anticipated releases of the year.
10. Captain American: The Winter Soldier/Guardians of the Galaxy
I know I’m cheating by doing this, but I couldn’t help but lump both of these releases together. Marvel’s second phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe already got off to the right start last year with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, and these two look to be even better. The first Captain America film remains my favorite solo-Avenger entry, and this sequel looks to be even bigger and better than the first. Not to be forgotten is Guardians of the Galaxy from director James Gunn, previously teased to us during the end credits of the last Thor film. The studio’s marketing campaign has been very smart, introducing the characters to audiences otherwise unfamiliar to the source material, and looks to be adopting a very refreshing comedic tone. I can’t wait to see how it pays off.
9. Life Itself
There’s no denying that film critic Roger Ebert was one of the most influential people in history, and almost a year after his unfortunate death, I can’t help but still be in disbelief. Being the fascinating individual that he was, I’m eagerly awaiting the adaptation of his memoir Life Itself, an independently funded documentary directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame. The film has already received strong notices from the Sundance Film Festival, and is to be distributed by Magnolia Films later in the year.
8. A Most Wanted Man
It’s already been a few weeks, and the world is still stinging from the loss of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He was most certainly one of the best actors of his generation, and showed no sign of slowing down. He still has several films awaiting release, and the one I’m most excited for is Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of A Most Wanted Man by John le Carre (the author behind Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the film adaptation of which became my favorite movie of 2011). Here’s hoping that Hoffman delivers nothing less than the spectacular work we always received from him.
7. Inherent Vice
One of the most revered directors of the modern age is Paul Thomas Anderson, best known for his 2007 magnum opus There Will be Blood. Coming off of his latest film, The Master, his next project is the adaptation of the novel Inherent Vice. I confess to having no familiarity with the original book, but I wouldn’t need to be familiar to be excited for this movie, which features a cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, and Martin Short. If this is up to the same quality of Anderson’s other movies, count me in.
6. How to Train Your Dragon 2
After last year’s uncharacteristically dull year in animation, this year already looks to be vastly superior (Once again, I highly recommend The Lego Movie). Of all the potentially great projects, the one I’m most excited for is the sequel to Dreamworks Animation’s 2010 smash hit How to Train Your Dragon. The trailers for this movie have been great, the new cast members joining the film (including Cate Blanchett and Djimon Hounsou) sound fantastic, and it looks to beautifully expand on the lore and scope of the dragon world. While I’m on this topic, I’ll add that I’m also cautiously optimistic for Dreamworks’ other big release this year, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.
5. A Million Ways to Die in the West
Ever since his hilarious debut film Ted, I’ve been waiting impatiently for director Seth MacFarlane’s follow up feature. Well, the wait is almost over. His next feature, A Million Ways to Die in the West, looks to be a potentially fantastic send up of classic westerns. The cast is also impressive, a cast that, in addition to MacFarlane, includes Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, and Neil Patrick Harris. With funny material, I have no doubt that these actors will knock their roles out of the park.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of the year, no surprise given director Christopher Nolan’s portfolio of films, no one is really sure what this movie is about yet. Originally intended to be under the direction of Steven Spielberg, the only thing that anyone really knows about the film is that it involves sci-fi elements of wormholes and space travel. I’ll be fascinated to learn what it’s about, much like Nolan’s previous sci-fi feature Inception. It also doesn’t hurt that this cast looks stellar, featuring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, and many more.
3. Gone Girl
Despite the impressive pedigree of the film’s cast and crew, including legendary director David Fincher, most of my anticipation for this film is actually due to my fondness for Gillian Flynn’s original novel, a gripping mystery thriller that makes great commentary on media and spousal manipulation. It’s something that fits perfectly in Fincher’s wheelhouse, and all of the actors chosen are great fits for their roles. It won’t be an easy novel to adapt to the screen, but with Flynn herself handling screenwriting duties, my worries for this film are minimal at best.
2. Big Eyes
Tim Burton hasn’t had the best of luck with his live action films recently, his last truly great film being Big Fish. I’d say he’s due for a comeback, and this movie looks to be it. The film is a biographical drama detailing the heated court battle between Walter and Margaret Keane, the latter (to be played by Amy Adams) an artist specializing in portraits of large eyed children that the former (Christoph Waltz) would take all the credit for. Just the fact that Burton is finally taking a break from Depp and Bonham Carter is reason enough to be excited, but the film is also being written by the writers of Burton’s Ed Wood biopic (still one of his best films), and with the superb Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in the lead roles, this could easily be Burton’s best film in over a decade.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
I don’t know where I’m gonna begin with this one. The impressive all-star cast list? The delightfully made trailers? The involvement of auteur Wes Anderson? For all of these reasons and more, I’ve been anticipating this movie for well over a year. As an exercise in spectacle alone, the movie looks to be Anderson’s most beautiful film to date, and based on what we’ve seen in the marketing and trailers, it also looks to be among his funniest films. The film has already received strong reviews and notices from the Berlin International Film Festival, with several naming it as his most personal film to date, and one of his best. The film comes out next month, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Honorable Mentions: Can a Song Save Your Life (assuming it releases this year), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Maps to the Stars, Transcendence